I'll tell you exactly what's going on here: the upping of American youth sports.
For some reason overcaffeinated parents feel they have to keep up with the Joneses. They used to do it with their cars. Now they do it with their kids. Upping means putting little Justin into not one soccer league but three, not one soccer camp but four.
Upping also means playing up, forcing a kid to play one or even two levels above his age group, so that little Benjamin, age eight, can sit on the 10-year-olds' bench, play three minutes a game and whiff in his only at bat. But, hey, he is playing up!
And upping means moving up. The local team isn't high-profile, so little Amber has to switch to an elite team, usually in another town. That means extended drives to and from practice plus traveling three or four or six hours to play in tony invitational tournaments on weekends. This way parents from far-flung towns can flaunt the status symbol of spending beautiful warm weekends in a freezing ice rink watching 14 mind-and butt-numbing hockey games.
"I admit, we're guilty from time to time," John Burrill, head of the Massachusetts Youth Soccer Association, says of playing on Sundays. "We don't feel particularly good about it, but with today's busy schedules Sunday is the only time some of us have to do these things. And if you're going to travel two states away, it doesn't make sense to not play Sunday, too."
Well, religion bosses have decided that they're not going to take it anymore. Spiritual leaders in Summit got together recently and appealed for sports leagues to stop scheduling games before noon on Sunday. A meeting between them and area youth coaches is set for May. We'll see who kneels first.
Don't bet on coaches doing the right thing. If they could, they'd have your kids running stairs on Christmas morning. What has to happen is the parents have to start saying no. Not to their kids—to their kids' coaches. "I told my boy's coach he wouldn't be playing on Sundays," says Cizik, "and he looked shocked. I said, 'You act like nobody's ever said that to you before.' And he said, 'Honestly? They haven't.' "
I'm with the holy men. Not that I'm the Reverend Lovejoy, but I just feel sorry for these kids who get nothing but organized sports crammed down their gullets 24/7. My Lord, even God took a day off.
Kids might weep with joy to get a day off from sports. If they don't spend it at church, maybe they'll spend it getting to know their siblings' names again. Or swing in a hammock without a coach screaming, "Get your hips into it, Samantha!"
Hey, you do what you want. Just remember, when little Shaniqua has two free throws to win or lose a game on some Sunday morning, good luck finding somebody who'll answer your prayers.