No child suffered because they did not have a juice box and a bag of Cheetos

No child suffered because they did not have a juice box and a bag of Cheetos

Last night while ruffling through my soccer bag before practice, I came across a small package of unopened juice boxes.

I pulled them out and cast them aside in the back of my car, immediately annoyed that space I intended to fill with my cleats was being occupied by remnants of post-game snacks.

If you’ve followed this little space for any amount of time, you’ll know that I hold the helicopter parents of today’s older generation of millennials responsible for much of what’s wrong with today’s society.

Perhaps, though, their most lasting contribution that continually draws my ire is the notion that every youth sports contest simply must end with a snack.

I’m reminded of this each winter and spring when my focus shifts from training teenagers with one eye on graduation and college athletic careers toward teaching much younger children.

And every youth season, without fail, our first game ends in disappointment. Why? Because the coach never once thought about organizing post-game snacks. No matter the result, no matter the performance, no matter how much cheering comes from their parents, the response is universal: Games that end without treats are tragedies.

Without intending to sound too old and crotchety, I must ask: Why? Why? Why? Why?

Why, when most games happen either between breakfast and lunch or between lunch and dinner, must we assign parents the job of making sure every child is equipped with a baggie of food and a drink for the ride home?

Why, in a day and age where parents are juggling multiple schedules, managing pick-up/drop-off times and meal planning all while working over 40 hours a week, do we allow ourselves to have yet another expectation placed on us?

Why, after seeing an entire generation derailed by participation medals, have we not reset this practice into something that’s actually more of a treat, rather than an expectation?

As parents we play this game of "Keeping up with the Joneses" often without realizing it. We try to live up to perceived expectations that, in all honesty, we place upon ourselves because we think it’s what others expect of us.

I started writing this bit to gripe about how silly I think post-game snack time is, but truly it’s much bigger than that.

I’ve always had this notion that humans, in general, are on an eternal quest for permission to just relax and be themselves. I see it often when I dine in super stuffy restaurants steeped in formalities. Even the most straight-laced individuals really just want permission to drop the rigid persona and enjoy.

So I guess I’m writing this to grant you all permission. As someone who has spent his entire life in sports — be it as a player, a coach or a parent — I’m telling you all that you have permission to scrap the post-game snack time.

No child, at least to my knowledge, has suffered injury or death because they did not have a juice box and a bag of Cheetos in hand for the five-minute drive back home.

Perhaps they’ll even build a little character in the process.

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