Monday, January 25, 2010
If you have been reading my blog for awhile you know that one of my guilty pleasures is Judge Judy. I plan my laundry folding around that 4 to 4:30 p.m. time frame. I'm not sure why I enjoy JJ except that the show is like the proverbial train wreck that we can't ignore. It also reaffirms daily that my life is at least not as bad as the lives of the litigants. When you've had the tenth blow up with your teenager over cleaning up the basement, it's nice to know that at least he didn't wreck his girlfriend's car while driving drunk with a suspended license and leaving the scene of the accident. He's just messy.
The other day a JJ case hit closer to home. A mom whose son played in the Pop Warner Football League had volunteered to be the team's treasurer. Apparently the team generated thousands of dollars every season through fundraisers, dues, and donations. So she oversaw a significant treasury. She was suing the coach of the team because by her reckoning he fired her without cause and owed her $1,700 for materials she had purchased for team gift bags. That last statement made me very glad my boys chose soccer over football. At the end of the year we usually had juice boxes and some treat. We then gave the coach and the team manager thank you cards and a small gift. If we spent $300 we were on the extravagant end. So I did gasp at the $1,700.
Apparently the main argument from the coach was that she was derelict in her duties by asking the parents to write their checks to her which she then deposited in her account and paid out. She countered by saying she kept records of every check she received and that she took personal checks for only one of the many money collections. My response – big deal! I was team manager for several of my boys' soccer teams when they were very young, and I can tell you I collected money all the time in what could only be described as haphazard. Parents would come up to me in the middle of a game and hand me $20 in one dollar bills. I'd scribble their names down on a napkin using a crayon I found under the back seat of my van and then accidently blow my nose on the napkin. Yet somehow I managed to keep track of all accounts through memory and some retracing of funds. Years later when someone else was a team manager, I never worried that she would take the funds I gave her and have an evening out at Jack in the Box on me. Did I occasionally have to remind her that I in fact paid? Yes. Did I occasionally have to check my bank records? Yes. Did I probably pay twice in a few cases? Yes. When I was manager did I have to cover someone who just never paid? Yes. But the amounts were so small and making waves just didn't seem worth the possible tsunami they might create. This Pop Warner team had taken the entire idea of team treasurer to the level of CFO.
The mom argued that she was dismissed because the coach's wife believed they had engaged in some unsavory behavior at a team party. It later came out that someone had possibly seen them kissing by a car and had told the wife. The mom claimed she wasn't even at the party. The coach pleaded the fifth. The mom further argued that her son had been kicked off the team as well. Then the President of the Pop Warner League stood up to defend the coach's actions. Why he wanted to get in the middle of this soap opera is beyond me. In the end the treasurer got her $1,700 back, but everyone lost some dignity that will be much harder to reimburse.
The final blow came in the after case interviews when the mom said, "And this is just touch football for first graders. I can't imagine what goes on in real football." I nearly fell into my laundry basket. These adults had dug in their heels and carried a battle about $1,700 and suspicion over an affair into a public venue seen by millions, and their children are just six years old. The lesson to be learned screams out to us: youth sports are for the youth. These parents forgot why their kids were playing touch football. The extravagant expenses had nothing to do with kids being able to play the game. Good grief! We played touch football every Thanksgiving with an old football we had to reinflate and whatever clothes we were wearing. It's a cheap sport. Kids don't need gift bags, and I can't figure out what fundraising had to be done unless they used diamond studded footballs. This should have been an opportunity for the kids to get some exercise while having fun rather than for the parents to air their personal secrets, showcase their indulgences and continue their petty feuds. I'm hoping no one recorded the episode, but I'm sure someone did so that Johnny and Molly can relive the horror of their parents' bad behavior.
We all need some serious perspective adjustments if we take youth sports this intensely. Robbie and Bryce have played on dozens of youth sport teams most of which they never continued. Yet I know they have fond memories of those teams. They loved basketball, baseball, volleyball, gymnastics, skate- and snowboarding, and soccer. But it was only the latter that they eventually pursued seriously. Even today they still participate in each of those sports and talk about the "remember when" moments. I can guarantee that we never paid more than $150 for any sport, that they never got a gift bag, and that we never participated in any major fundraising until we got to upper level soccer. But I can also guarantee that they had great experiences, learned the fundamentals of the sports, and formed good friendships. That's all we can hope for when we put our children in youth sports. If there's going to be drama, let it be on the field or the basketball court rather than a courtroom. Make sure we remember our responsibility – we're the parents, so we need to be role models and take the high road. If we want to indulge our children, then indulge them with love and attention. They won't admit it, but they really want that more than what money can buy. And they certainly want it more than being notorious Judge Judy litigants. Just as I can say thank goodness my children aren't anything like the children on that show, our kids want to be able to say thank goodness their parents aren't anything like the parents on that show.