Socialization was the goal in the first place, right?
I visited our local lake the other evening (during an hour when it’s usually empty in my sports-loving town), and I saw the strangest thing … other families! Whole entire families were there in person— spread apart to keep some physical distance, with plenty of folks wearing masks. There was even an Olympic-style socially distanced round of Marco Polo that I hoped would never end.
“Could we all please agree to not sign up for soccer in the spring!” my neighbor begged the other moms in our circle. It wasn’t her family’s usual time to hit the lake, either, but like my gang, her kids’ tee-ball season was canceled due to COVID-19 and they had a few hours to kill until bedtime.
“We supposedly need sports leagues to socialize,” another homeschooler chimed in. And I could relate, even though kicking a ball around a field never seems to leave enough time for our kids to actually get to know one another. I was reflecting on this conundrum as I watched a teenager give diving lessons to the little ones.
“She’s got a gift for kids,” a grandma said of the teenager as she nodded with a wink.
I was beginning to feel like I’d traveled back in time – back to a day when one’s evenings were not completely dominated by soccer practice, and neighbors and communities came together in more spontaneous, organic ways.
3 Commandments for sports parents
Don’t get me wrong – I sympathize greatly with those yearning to play team sports again right now and whose seasons have been canceled due to the pandemic. Our Catholic tradition greatly supports athleticism. The Baltimore Catechism prescribes “keeping occupied with work and play” as an important way to avoid sin. (Lesson 6; #73) Feast days used to be a time marked by outdoor play, and many great saints have been accomplished athletes.
Fr. Patrick Kelly discusses this topic in a recent America Magazine article entitled “Why the Catholic Church cares about sports:” He wrote: “One way playing team sports does good for the human person is by providing a context within which he or she experiences community.” I added the emphasis there to the word “community,” because ironically it is community that we finally found when our sports activities were canceled. I’m not saying it has to be this way with kids’ sports, but just that something wasn’t quite right.
So will we sign up for soccer in the spring?
Maybe. Or maybe we’ll just keep up the bike-riding routine we’ve fallen into each afternoon. I do know that the next time sign-ups come around, I’m only committing to one team per season. So I might need to bribe the coach to put all my sons on the same team. Because hanging out with my neighbors at the lake is calling, and I don’t want to miss out!