So.......... you sign up for the first season of Fall T-Ball, Soccer, Basketball, or Volleyball so excited about the upcoming season. The first practice is the Big Day. Your kid is beyond excitement, he can’t wait to see what the uniform will look like, who his coach will be and which of his friends ended up on his team. You are excited too, for the same reasons as your child, but also because your kid will be learning new sports skills, getting fit, making new friends, and learning teamwork.
After the practice, you’ve been told there will be a parent meeting. What is always the first order of business?? Yup….the Snack List! That sacred sheet of paper is passed around, and you must sign up to bring a snack and a drink for the team for one game. Yes, as with nearly every move they make in the first 10 years of life, kids are rewarded after each game with food, usually sugary, trans fat-laden bars or cookies of some sort. Also, they get a box or bag of juice which is usually not juice, just water and sugar.
It’s really not a big deal, I suppose, a nice snack as a reward for doing well on the field, and cementing the notion that sports and activity are a positive, happy experienced. But GOOD LORD……..starting at about age 2, kids get rewarded and fed crap for everything they do: every activity seems to end with a snack or a gift or at the very least a stamp on your hand. Anyone with common sense knows this is not good. We all know what’s inherently wrong with this…
1. Way too much sugar/fat
2. Being rewarded for doing something that’s supposed to be fun, and a reward in of itself. This could cause them to have a huge sense of entitlement. As teenagers and adults, maybe they’ll end up a big lump on the couch doing nothing that requires any effort, unless promised an outrageous reward.
3. All those snacks throughout the day will ruin his appetite for the healthy dinner you have planned.
4. If you have a couple of games in one day, then siblings games, then a birthday party….your kid has just racked up an extra Halloweens worth of crap
5. We (the parents) are the ones paying for this, and trying to remember when our snack day is. Please don’t even remind me about the time I forgot it was my turn during basketball season a few years back…I still have nightmares about the other parents shunning me.
6. Constant food rewards might cause disorders surrounding food in the future.
7. Competition between families regarding quality of snacks provided (yes, I have been known to bring a lasagna and Italian ices to a soccer game)
But wait………………the reason this evil snack distribution (ESD) keeps on going and couldn’t be stopped by common sense any more than a mouse could stop a speeding Amtrak is because it works. Ultimately, we all want our kids to be happy and healthy, right? Looking at the big picture, ending a game (or beginners ballet session, whatever) with a common, understandable, positive snack with friends, leaves the kids in happy state of mind. They are able to wipe away some of the memory of being on the basketball court and getting beat 31-3, or passing to the wrong team, or even doing well, but not really knowing exactly what you’re doing. Beginning sports are fun, but also a little confusing and daunting to the newbies, especially those who were reluctant participants in the first place. Having your last memory of the soccer game being a Little Debbie cake and a juice box with all your new best friends is a much happier feeling than of being dismissed by the coach with a wave and a “better luck next time” or “we’ll work on your hitting at practice next week”. That feeling can be the difference in him wanting to quit and come back next week for more fun. We want our kids to love sports, get better, make friends, and want to sign up year after year, right? After they build confidence they’ll find the sport they truly excel at and love, focus intently on it and be the star pitcher in next years Little League World Series, or become the next Michael Phelps in the 2016 Olympics.
Sometimes a bit of sugar actually does the trick for that first step. There really are the subset of kids that, whether they know it or not, come back week after week just for the snacks, and throughout the season they eventually get comfortable with the sport. Poof, you’ve got the next Freddy Adu or Mia Hamm on your hands, all thanks to Capri Sun or Juicy Juice.
So… suck it up, don’t try to change the ESD by doing an email campaign to eliminate the Snack List this season (as if you’re the first person to try that! Ha), or by bringing healthy snacks when it’s your turn (yup..tried that too, I learned that it’s better to forget it’s your day than bring cider and homemade bran muffins; we had to switch towns after that) Trust me, as they get older and into higher levels of a sport, snacks brought by mommies for the whole team become extremely UNCOOL anyway. I feel it’s better that they are out their playing, exercising, and learning new things than sitting home with a bowl of broccoli.