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Keeping Up With the Soccer Joneses

Family family tiesTies was one of my favorite sitcoms from the 1980’s.  It wasn’t the funniest show in the world but I related with it.  Parents who cared but were a little weird and eccentric.  The kids had some problems but nothing overly earth-shattering.  Despite any issues that arose, there was a general sense that the family cared for one another and wanted the best for each other.  The morals to the episodes were pretty straight forward and dealt with things that I was about to go through as a kid.  Although there were major differences between myself and the character, I always identified with Alex P.  Keaton.

His character was focused intently on money, success and economics.  Those topics never really hit my radar.  However intertwined within his “young republican” ideals was a character that had struggles and found a balance for his aspirations and human relations.  His desire for success got pushed to the side at times when more pressing matters were at hand.  Now I recognize that the show is fake and the character does not really exist but it paints a picture.  Alex P. Keaton was a “keep up with Joneses” kind of guy.  Success was written into his character but so was a human element.  I’ve not asked Michael J. Fox for an interpretation on the following but I feel confident in my assertion.

Most of us need to focus more on the soccer Keatons and let the soccer Joneses go!  Believe me!  I want the USMNT to win a World Cup.  It’s a dream that I would love to see come to fruition.  BUT my desire for that success cannot override my desire for a fruitful sports culture for a majority of our young players.  Academies SHOULD exist.  Trainers SHOULD be training young soccer players.  However the idea that all players and parents should be aspiring to that level is lunacy.  The soccer culture over the past few years has tilted heavily toward the professionalism of the youth game.  As I said above, these things are important for the improvement the sport at a certain level.  The pervasiveness of the shift is the concern.  There seems to be a cultural ratchet that should exist for some but not others.  The top level players need that cultural ratchet to improve the national team player pool.  The general youth player does not.

  • They need their parents to cheer for them embarrassingly no matter how mediocre they are.
  • They need to have economic burden of youth sports taken off of their parents, thus inflated expectations taken off of them.
  • They need their instruction in the sport to come from a caring adult who is invested in them as a person rather than an outsourced “expert”.
  • They need to be a kid first.

Perhaps this is nothing more than a bit of nostalgia for a simpler soccer time.  Or maybe we should truly be worried.  Worried that a sport whose name in this country is even derived from its community roots but seems to be more focused on individualism and exceptionalism.  If our hearts and minds are truly for sale, we should look to get more than a few years with the label of “Elite”.  Those years are not coming back.  When they are gone, will you revel in how close you were to the top level?  Or how close you are with the people who matter to you in your family/community?  Perhaps you can have the former without sacrificing the latter but is that a gamble that so many should be making?

What would we do (baby) without us?

Pete

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