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Goon: Unstructured summer fading into the past

Published July 20, 2013 4:13 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Every year, young athletes get a break from school sports for the summer.

That's when the real work begins.

It's dizzying to map out every AAU basketball team, every football 7-on-7 camp, every softball tournament. Lazy afternoons spent fishing or playing video games in friends' basements don't earn scholarships, and that's the pressure adolescents face.

I was pondering this as I talked to director David Mickey Evans this week. His directorial debut, "The Sandlot," has been a childhood favorite of a lot of people, and perhaps reminds them of a bygone, innocent era.

Evans will tell you: emphasis on "bygone."

"When I grew up in the '70s, you just left home in the morning, hung out all day with your friends, and didn't come back home until it was dark outside," he said during our interview. "When you came back, your mom didn't ask you where you'd been, she just gave you dinner. You can't do that anymore."

A bystander unknown to either of us cut in.

"Sounds like you grew up in my neighborhood," the middle-aged man said.

Consider this question: Are children today making the same memories? When they watch "The Sandlot," do they wonder whether Adidas or Nike sponsored this rag-tag group of ballplayers?

Structure defines athletics today. Each athlete follows a prescribed formula of school sports during the year, then travel and club during the offseason. In fact, "offseason" is quickly becoming an outdated term.

Ask any prep football player when they started lifting weights after the season. The answer is usually two weeks.

And football is one of the most heavily restricted youth sports. Soccer players and basketball players seem active nearly year-round between spring and summer club tournaments, fall and winter conditioning and seasons.

I'm not one to assume the old ways are the best, and when these teens end up earning scholarships to play college sports, they'll swear by it.

But where is the line between childhood and adulthood now? Are club teammates slowly replacing the neighborhood kids we all played with in the backyard or on the street?

There's nothing wrong with being dedicated or passionate about your sport.

But sometimes, maybe what we all need is a bit of fresh air, a free-flowing afternoon with our friends, and a little more time for hot dogs, fireworks and maybe a game of catch when we can squeeze it in.

kgoon@sltrib.com

Twitter: @kylegoon