I was sitting on the couch watching football with my Dad during the Thanksgiving weekend and holding a wandering conversation. At some point, one of my brothers joined us and the conversation turned a bit philosophical—eventually drifting to the outsized importance sports currently plays in our society and how different it was from when we grew up.
We lived in rural Wisconsin and spent the majority of our lives outside—moving from season to season playing football in the fall, basketball in the winter, soccer in the spring and baseball all summer. We built snow forts and ice rinks and tree-houses. We stripped down bikes and tried to put them back together. We made up games to play on our roller skates and bikes and skateboards. We made boats during the rainy season and raced them in the streams running through the ditches and culverts of the neighborhood. We sat on the neighbor’s fence and watched the cars go by on Hwy XX for entire afternoons.
My Dad listened to my brother talk and then said something interesting.
“I wonder if a few years down the road we’re going to find this infatuation with sports versus an infatuation with nature is cyclical—maybe by generation. I can see a kid who grew up in a sports-mad family, someone who played high-end travel sports always gunning to make the next level, saying ‘I’m not going to do that to my kid. He’s going to be in the Boy Scouts. He’s going to hunt, fish, camp, ski and so on. And then, that kid swinging back to sports.’”
There might be something to this—and it might already be happening.
In his article “Remaining Relevant—Why summer camp is important to Generation Y” (page 28), Ephram Caflun talks about how this generation has been bombarded by pop culture gone mad—unlimited access to data, instant communication, instant gratification. He believes this generation is “rethinking success—so that it’s less about material prosperity and more about happiness.”
You can see how part of this re-thinking process might include valuing getting outdoors and slowing down over constant competition.
I see examples of this in my own family. I have five kids. My older two got sucked into the competitive sports world and they’ve been running and gunning ever since.
However, my younger three are the exact opposite. They don’t want to play organized sports because it cuts into their playtime with the kids on the street. They rush home from school, grab a snack then head outside to play with their friends. They build gardens in our cul-de-sac, jump off the swingset, play games of war, tag, kick ball. They ride their bikes in a pack, rollerblade around the block and run, run, run everywhere, all the time.
They couldn’t be more different than my older two. And yet, they’re every bit as athletic and, interestingly, in amazing physical shape.
Is there a big cultural shift coming? Who knows? But, it’s nice to consider.
Happy New Year!
Rodney J. Auth