No Pain. No gain. Fuhgettabout it.
That’s for adults. And that’s because we’re old. This is the old advice. Exercise for us is scheduled, measured and altogether serious. Ushering kids into this is making them old before their time.
Have you ever been to a Chuck E Cheese’s?
It’s a kids’ games arcade with pizza thrown in as an added attraction. My kids used to love it. So, because I loved them, I took them there. When they were old enough to be off to the games by themselves I would settle myself into a booth with my veggie pizza and my reading material and await their return. Eventually, they came back to show me their winning tickets and occasionally to have some pizza.
I never got much reading done. It’s loud. All the machines are clanking and whirring. Every 10 minutes there’s a ridiculous happy birthday show with lifesize Sesame Street type puppets (including Chuck E, of course). And there are kids yelling and running around everywhere. How…distracting! Children at play and their parents yelling after them, “Junior, don’t run!”
Why are we telling our small children ‘Don’t run?’ It’s their natural pace!
Pretty soon, we get our wish. They stop. Then we are badgering them to “get out and get some exercise!”
I’m feeling a bit smug until I realize the reason I am sitting in the booth and not playing, too. It’s because when I play the games I feel the need to “help” them win as many tickets as possible. Maybe even search the floor for strays. All for…a plastic toy that will lose their interest long before we even make it home?
I think the Chuck E Cheese experience has a lot to say about why our kids need sports and why their parents and coaches need to stand aside. Kids love to be in motion. Sports is a natural for them because it’s fast and it’s fun. And sometimes it even has prizes. They enjoy it for the pace and the challenge … until the adults in charge call it “conditioning” and introduce “moving up a division.”
It’s as if I counseled my five year old, happy with her handful of tickets and the trinket they earn her, to hold onto those tickets so she can save for that ‘even bigger prize.’ All of a sudden it’s not about the fun, its about the size of the prize. This is all completely hypothetical, of course.
Left to their own devices, kids love to move and they love to play. The more they do, the more fun they have and the fitter they are. That’s the genius of sports. Games are good for them and they don’t even know it.
No wonder Chuck E Cheese’S says it’s “where a kid can be a kid.”