AMERICAN RENEWAL (CONT.)
I have just finished reading John Underwood's article A Game Plan for America (Feb. 23), along with the editorial comment by Henry Grunwald, and it is the best material I have ever read on the subject of team play and sports.
Having two children engaged in several youth league activities, I am keenly aware of the intense pressure that is put on them to win at any cost. Sometimes I feel myself getting caught up in the desire to see my children's team win, and I begin to lose sight of the real reason they are playing.
It is my opinion that competitive sports have been corrupted—young people are being taught that winning is all that is important and that you play for yourself, not your team. Underwood reminds us that we have to reevaluate our priorities and get sports back into the proper perspective.
It is articles like this one that make SPORTS ILLUSTRATED one of the great magazines of our time.
DAVID W. BONNER
John Underwood's article is so true. We all seem to forget that children first have to learn a sport before they can excel. The youth leagues definitely need to be reoriented.
One thing I would like to see changed is the practice of some baseball managers of taking their teams out for ice cream after big wins. My father was criticized when he told his team that he would treat after particular games regardless of whether we won or lost. Our team's record improved vastly after he took over, and we played for our own enjoyment rather than the manager's.
I also have a message for every parent of a youth leaguer who has, at one time or another, gotten into a fight with another parent over some aspect of the game: your son's league championship isn't important enough for you to make a jackass out of yourself.
Thanks so much for pointing out the practice in certain Georgia school systems of holding back athletes in the eighth grade to increase their chances of getting college football scholarships. I am in favor of all high school athletics, but when we start keeping back students for athletic purposes we contradict everything our educational system stands for. Coaches who engage in this practice should reexamine their priorities. Parents who support it should think again about the well-being of their children.
High School Teacher
Don't despair because big-time sports programs are win-at-any-cost, elitist ventures. Hearken to the world's best elementary phys ed program ever, flowering at our school. Fifth-grade boys and girls play on coed teams, learning soccer, football, basketball, Softball. etc., and they also do strength and flexibility exercises. Student captains, student scorer-referees and student exercise leaders handle the program. After teaching the rules of the sport, teachers rotate as supervisors. Different games are played each day and everyone gets the same phys ed grade. A love of competition prevails, so skills rapidly improve. Enthusiastic children exult over wins, but there are no prizes or all-star teams. Skills contests are held intermittently, and the school year concludes with a field day at which classes vie for paper ribbons and the championship. Every child competes, and parents are conspicuous by their absence.
The rewards to the students and the teachers are readily apparent to all who are involved. I wonder if older students wouldn't benefit from a phys ed program based on similar ideas.
Warm Springs School