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Bye Bye Miss American Pie: Will We Let Coronavirus Crush Our Youth Sports Spirit?

Ian Goldberg is a sports dad, coach and the Founder of iSport360.  His SportsTech company is helping over  100,000 youth sport coaches, parents and kids set goals, share player feedback, instructional videos and sticker rewards….all to foster healthy team communication and culture. Try iSport360 for free here.

When I think of “American Pie”, I think of kids, sports, families and weekends at the ball fields.  I think of pump-up songs in the car ride to our games and ice cream with the kids afterward.   I think of the smells of Spring, the beginning of tournament season and the sound of teammates cheering each other on.  It’s the fabric of our culture.  I can’t lie, the suspension of youth sports in our country, which I never would have imagined in a million years, feels a bit like the day the music died.  But maybe this dark cloud has a silver lining.

Bad News on the Doorstep

Certainly, COVID-19 is a setback for our young athletes….and for us…their parents and coaches.  45M kids count on their sports teams for fun, for friendships, for physical activity, for competition, for skill development.  But does this all have to end because our kids’ games and practices have been cancelled?  Especially in this age of technology and interconnectedness, can’t the show still go on?  Perhaps this crisis is a test of the leadership, perseverance and mental toughness that our kids have learned in youth sports.

Moss Grows Fat on a Rolling Stone

The first glimmer of hope, for me, occurred last weekend.  Although games and practices were cancelled, I saw more kids riding their bikes in my neighborhood than ever before.  I saw kids at the community basketball court shooting baskets (while social distancing themselves from one another off course).  I saw kids hanging out in the park not based on birth year or skill level but just hanging out….like kids used to do.  I also observed parents and their kids kicking a soccer ball around in the yard.  With our kids typically so over scheduled, and parents always at work, it’s a rare sight to see.

The Marching Band Refused to Yield

We also talk frequently of empowering our kids to lead their own sports experience….well here’s their chance.  Without the structure of their sports teams, coaches, trainers and schedules, kids are coming up with their own innovative ways to stay in shape, build their skills and stay connected with their teammates.  I was delighted to see my teenager going for a jog with her younger sister, leading a yoga session with her mom and putting together a workout routine.  I love seeing kids on Instagram sharing their skill workouts with each other.  And in their spare time, my daughter’s soccer team is working together to send greeting cards to the elderly residence at a local assisted living facility.  This is leadership, perseverance and mental toughness that young athletes have spent their childhood honing.

Jack Be Nimble, Jack Be Quick

Without a doubt the weeks and months to come will be unprecedented…..mental challenges, social challenges, educational challenges.   No games in our neighborhoods and no professional sports on TV.  So let’s find opportunity in our young athletes freedom, independence, initiative, spontaneity, leadership and mental toughness.  Stay safe and be well my friends.