Matt Suoja: Where has the fun gone?

A pilot program for testing weight lifters and high school baseball and football players for steroids in Florida was approved by Gov. Charlie Cirst on Tuesday.

A pilot program for testing weight lifters and high school baseball and football players for steroids in Florida was approved by Gov. Charlie Cirst on Tuesday.

In March of this past year, the Minnesota State High School League passed a rule that stated a student who transfers schools for athletic reasons must sit out a season before playing any sport at his or her new school.

In September of 2006, 36-year-old assistant youth football coach Cory Petero ran onto the field and attacked a player on the opposing side of a football game in California The 13-year-old player was attacked because he put a late hit on another player. The boy suffered from bruises on his stomach and jaw. Petero was brought up on misdemeanor child abuse charges.

In 1998, according to the National Association of Sports Officials Web site, a 62-year-old volunteer umpire in Wisconsin was punched several times in the face by a coach for a non-call in a 11 and 12-year-old game.

Are these shining examples that illustrate fun in sports is lost?


I believe they are.

Too much focus is put on winning. More of an emphasis should be put on teamwork and having fun.

"Don't measure yourself by what you have accomplished, but by what you should accomplish with your ability," said John Wooden, who won 10 NCAA basketball championships with the UCLA Bruins.

It's not like these kids are getting paid millions of dollars like professional athletes. Maybe parents and kids are more focused on winning because they want a taste of the pros.

Let's be practical people. The chances of you, your son or your daughter making it to the professional ranks is small.

Even if someone had a shot at the pros, why take the fun out of it?

Everyone has a breaking point. If it's not fun, yet its supposed to be, young athletes often lose interest. They also have the chance of getting injured.

In fact, Tommy John surgery is on the rise among young people.


This procedure is done when a pitcher has a torn elbow ligament. This ligament is then replaced by a ligament from somewhere else on their body.

Before, this procedure was used mostly for major leaguers. Today it's a different story.

According an MSNBC report released in 2005, the number of people under the age of 17 getting the surgery is going up at an alarming rate.

The reason: many young people are throwing pitches that they shouldn't. Pitches like curve balls and sliders are now being thrown by little leaguers. This puts an unnatural strain on their pitching arm, said the report.

Why is all of this pressure on young people to do so well in sports?

One of the main culprits is parents. In a lot of cases parents may not realize how far they are pushing their son or daughter.

If my parents tried to shove a sport down my throat, I probably would have been better at it.

I probably would also have hated the sport I was playing.


Some would argue winning is fun.

It is, but getting injured isn't. Not getting any playing time isn't, nor is an angry parent pressuring a coach to do something unethical, or a coach doing something unethical on their own due to the pressure of winning.

Winning is not only a big deal in sports in the United States, but society as a whole.

Why is it so important that we must all win?

Winning is never conclusive. It doesn't define who were are. It doesn't make us better than someone else. It's just a result.

"I always tried to make clear that basketball is not the ultimate," said Wooden. "It is of small importance in comparison to the total life we live."

Winning is the same way.

More people should listen to what Wooden, along with many other athletic greats, has to say about competition.


A hundred years from now, no one is going to remember who won what high school or little league game.

Why is it so important now?

I feel like a hypocrite for talking about sports this way, since that is what I write about. Competition is what drives sports stories.

Maybe fun should be driving them instead.

Matt Suoja is a reporter at the Budgeteer News. He can be reached at 723-1207 or e-mailed at .

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