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Rich Kimball Rich Kimball
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More is not necessarily better

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You only need to stroll down the cereal aisle at your local Hannaford to come to the realization that we have more choices than ever before about virtually everything in our lives. A mere generation ago a coffee was a coffee; your options were black and regular, and the idea of a grande mocha latte was as futuristic as the space cars the Jetsons drove. Today we are faced with a myriad of selections everywhere from food to the 500-channel television universe, and 'coffee shops' now have a menu larger than most restaurants of my youth.

Few areas of our lives have seen as exponential a growth in opportunities as youth sports and, much like what you see surfing through your cable choices, that isn't always a good thing. The other day I saw a sign advertising a new a baseball league for 4- and 5-year-olds. Surely that has to be a sign of an impending apocalypse. Here in 21st century America, if you're not playing organized sports by the time you've grown out of your Pull-Ups, you're behind the eight ball.

When I was four my athletic pursuits consisted of running from bumble bees, kicking cans and jumping up and down on my bed. Of course, that may be why my pro career never materialized. Had I only been in an organized league, with my name on my uniform, travelling to Altoona for the national 4-year-old championships, I would now be retired and living off my income from reverse mortgage ads, based on my popularity as a retired superstar athlete.

Maybe it's my age showing through (as if the gray hair wasn't enough of a clue), but I don't remember ever being bored as a kid. Even as an only child, there were always friends in the neighborhood to play sports with - and we didn't even need uniforms, officials and seven adults to supervise and organize. My mother didn't worry if I was gone all day playing pick-up baseball games in the summer, but now our national culture of fear has parents convinced that there are any number of strangers in vans waiting out there to snatch their little darlings off the fields and playgrounds. That's not to minimize the legitimate safety concerns many have, but I think we've gone a little overboard in that regard.

You might think that all of these additional opportunities for youngsters to engage in sports would translate into positive gains in our society, but that's far from the truth. We have more obese children than ever before, many more live a sedentary lifestyle, and a tremendous number give up sports at an early age. The National Alliance for Sports reports that 70 percent of our kids quit team sports by the age of thirteen. The reasons are numerous - burnout, pressure from parents and coaches, too much emphasis on winning, but mostly, it comes down to fun. You remember fun? The reason we play these games?

I'm not suggesting that we eliminate programs or cut back on opportunities, but I do have an idea for parents. With summer approaching, don't feel the need to over-schedule your children so much that they need a personal assistant to remind them of their next practice. Let them breathe a little. Give them a chance to develop imagination, explore the backyard, play a game that you don't supervise. You can't turn back the clock but you sure can slow it down for them.

Rich Kimball is the host of "Downtown with Rich Kimball" which airs every weekday from 4:00 - 6:00 p.m. on AM 910 Fox Sports Maine and streaming live on www.sportscentralbangor.com

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