Absurd, cutthroat competition kills childhood experience

Face paint, colorful outfits and exposed bellies: Fine for TCU cheerleaders, bad for little girls. Last week, on my way back from church, I witnessed a caravan of pint-sized cheerleaders crossing the street as they left their competition at the University Recreation Center.Seriously, none of these girls could have been more than 6 years old. While I could go off on a tangent about how parents nowadays need to dress their young ones a lot more modestly, I’m not going to go there today. What deserves everyone’s attention is what these girls were doing here.

Competitive cheerleading when barely out of kindergarten — what the hell is that all about? What happened to finger paints and Saturday morning cartoons? What happened to playing on the swing set? What happened to kids just being kids?

Our nation starts its children on the “success” path way too soon, especially in the realm of youth sports. Private golf or tennis lessons starting at age 6 so your kid will make the high school team. Driving across town twice a week to attend a pitching academy at age 9. Competitive dancing lessons starting at age 4.

Sure, some might scoff at those seemingly ridiculous statements, but to others they are a way of life. Everybody wants the best for their children in the land of opportunity, but I believe there’s a limit.

Some may say America needs this sort of lifestyle. After all, competitiveness and determination helped us develop from a land of simple farmers into the greatest power in the world, right? Pushing our kids is only natural. That way, we can separate the strong from the weak and get the leaders of tomorrow off on the right foot. As they say: a little competition never hurt anybody.

A little competition never hurt anybody, eh? Last month, a little league baseball coach in Uniontown, Pa., was convicted of corruption of a minors and criminal solicitation to commit simple assault after he offered one of players $25 to bean an 8-year-old autistic teammate. The reason? So the autistic boy couldn’t play, thus improving the team’s chances of victory. Worst of all, this sleazeball avoided conviction of two more serious charges, aggravated assault and reckless endangerment, because it was determined the boys injuries weren’t serious enough to warrant these charges.

I’m glad to see we are instilling such virtue in our children. Respect your elders, don’t cheat in school and, oh yeah, throw a fastball at your mentally disabled teammate’s head. God bless America.

It’s not always the parents who push their kids into these activities and the crazy lifestyle associated with them. Many young children may be fascinated by the idea of being on a baseball team or some other type of competitive sport, and their parents may never hear the end of it.

If your young daughter wants to be a cheerleader, buy her some pompoms and a couple of videos. If your little slugger wants to play baseball, sign him up for the “everybody wins, five strikes and you’re out, let’s go out for ice cream because you are all champions to me” world of YMCA baseball.

There’s a time for children to be barked at by hyper-competitive coaches who are vicariously living their sports dreams through their players: It’s called middle school.

The real world is a tough place, full of backstabbing, win at all costs, steal-your-sales-commission-to-pay-for-their-summer-home jerks. So why would we want to expose our kids to this kind of culture any sooner than we have to? It’s no wonder that 70 percent of athletes drop out of youth sports by the age of 13.

I think we should let them stick to sandboxes and Legos a little bit longer.

David Hall is a freshman news-editorial journalism major from Kingwood. His column appears every Tuesday and Friday.