Organized Sports and Unstructured Play in South Kitsap

Did anyone read the Associated Press story on the demise of sandlot baseball that ran in our Nation & World section over the weekend? (I asked our Web editor, but the can’t pay for the privilege of archiving links to AP stories; so my link is to the Wenatchee World’s version – hey Wenatchee’s a good town.

According to the article by Eric Olson, “Nowadays, most neighborhood ball fields sit empty on summer afternoons, the idea of unsupervised play having gone the way of the rotary-dial phones kids once used to round up the fellas for a game.

** ADVANCE FOR WEEKEND EITIONS, JULY 19-20 ** Little League players practice in a sandlot in Omaha, Neb., July 7, 2008. Many men over 40 remember those summer days when they headed to the park or vacant lot and played ball all day, or until Mom sent word that it was time for dinner. Nowadays most neighborhood ballfields sit empty on summer afternoons, the idea of unsupervised play having gone the way of the rotary-dial phones kids once used to round up the fellas for a game. The reasons for the sandlot’s demise, baseball coaches and sociologists say, go back to the changing family structure, video games, parents’ fear of predators and the proliferation of organized and select teams.(AP Photo/Nati Harnik)

The reasons for the sandlot’s demise, baseball coaches and sociologists say, go back to the changing family structure, video games, parents’ fear of crime, and the proliferation of organized and so-called “select” teams for more-talented kids.”

According to the article, a group called Batters Up is trying to revive the tradition by providing equipment to Boys & Girls Clubs and other groups.

North Kitsap reporter Derek Sheppard wrote about the Suquamish Tribe’s baseball tradition that they hope to revive with the construction of a new diamond off Totten Road.

In other local, related news, the Kitsap County Parks and Recreation staff met recently with the public to talk about a master plan for South Kitsap Regional Park. Consultants presented three schematic designs from which those attending the workshop were asked to mix and match their favorite features.

Some of the features proposed at the park include sports fields, a skate park and BMX track, playgrounds, picnic areas, horseshoe pits, a community center, environmental learning center, concessions and more. At least two-thirds of the park will be left as unaltered forest with trails.

Martha Droge of the county described the designers’ intent for each plan saying, “This one (concept 3) has the most passive use. This one (concept 2) has all sports all the time, and this one (concept 1) is kind of a mixture.”

Points for Discussion:

Organized sports are huge in Kitsap County as elsewhere. How does league (or school) play (in any sport) benefit kids? How is it good for families? And what are the  potential hazards?

For example, the Kitsap Sun recently ran a story on how intensive select play is resulting in injuries in players at younger ages than seen in the past.

Then there’s the much criticized phenomenon of parents living through their children. I freely confess that I get a huge kick out of watching my son fly down the soccer pitch, and I’ll admit there’s more to it than just entertainment. Through him, I do indeed relive the days when I could run like that.

Parents who pressure their kids to perform or show poor sportsmanship? That’s another issue.

And what about unsupervised play? How many hours a day do your kids play at something that isn’t organized or plugged in? How are their lives different from your childhood? What are the obstacles, if any, to their being able to play unsupervised?

And finally, the article deals with sandlot baseball. Anybody else ever play rotton apple baseball?

Thank you for your thoughts. CTH

2 thoughts on “Organized Sports and Unstructured Play in South Kitsap

  1. Oh, I don’t know that kids are really that different today in regard to unsupervised play. Whether it is pick-up basketball at the cul-de-sac hoop, summer flashlight tag, or a walk to the 7-11 for a slurpee… the only real thing I see different is that this next generation is a generation of multi-taskers and communicators.

    Flashlight tag gets a little help from text messaging to coordinate an ambush. Walking to the 7-11 doesn’t mean just talking to your friend who is going with you, but if you can text and walk, you can catch up on your friend’s vacation, find out who won your buddy’s little league game, or “cha cha” (go ahead, text a question to 242242) the name of the last pitcher to throw a no-hitter in the Majors.

    It used to be that kids would go to the library in the summer to explore the world. Now they surf the net and explore the world or their friends text them from places all over the country.

    Never played rotten apple baseball. Played a lot of “kick the can” and sandlot kick-ball, though. I also remember secret messages exchanged in bottles, left in our super-secret hiding place, near the girls fort (built much better than the boy’s fort) with my best friend. We are on the leading edge of text messaging. Amongst my favorite memories are summer blue-berry muffins, “pine cone and black berry wars”, and the zip-line at the Pilling’s “off-limits” playground on Burley Creek.

    Kathryn Simpson

  2. Chris: Jimmy Fallon said it in that Red Sox movie. It’s huge to be part of something bigger than you are.

    It doesn’t really matter if you play select or elite or recreational sports. As long as you’re playing. Staying in the game. That’s the goal.

    Anyone who’s ever taken a sports psychology class knows that the kids shouldn’t be critically coached until they are about 14 years old. At that point, they can handle it. They want it. They’re hooked, they want to be good at something.

    We had security where we live and my son use to think it was great fun to try and get the security guard to chase him and his friends. It took him all summer to realize that the security guard didn’t have any interest in him unless he did something wrong. It was kind of a letdown for him. I guess he thought the security guard wanted to play tag. I love boys.

    There was an FC Kitsap team from South Kitsap who are my younger son’s age. They won a state title, or maybe two. They earned the opportunity to go to Europe and compete internationally when they were about 15 years old. Well done, boys. Congratulations. It’s hard to believe. I know of their FC coach, Neil Megson, just because we use to live in Portland and had box seats at the Rose Garden for the Portland Pride during the mid ’90’s.

    I’m not sure if a bunch of small town kids can mentally handle traveling around Europe playing soccer when they’re 15 and then come back to their hometown and be respectful to adults or their high school coach. That would be a parent issue. Keeping them humble. You should look up humble in the dictionary. You are probably going to see Alex May’s picture.

    It’s a different world out there now. These soccer teams traveling around the county or the sound or the state are generating more goodwill and good press than you or I will in our lifetime. They are ambassadors. And I think they represent us pretty well. In spite of the fact that some of them are sometimes disrespectful to Coach Bergeson, they represent.

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