Just up ahead there is a beautiful waterfall. To see this beautiful waterfall, you need to look over a very tall fence. Footstools are provided so you can stand and look over the fence. Everyone wants an opportunity to see the beautiful waterfall! Unfortunately, the footstools are short and only help the taller individuals see over the fence, leaving everyone else out. The not so tall individuals begin stacking footstools. Some stack three or four, so they too could see. If we are all given the same single footstool, we would never ALL be able to see the waterfall.

This mindset is very different than giving ALL kids a medal after each soccer game, I am not a proponent of this practice. Giving every kid a medal means ALL kids on the team put in the same amount of effort, and we know that is not the case. There are kids that practiced in their backyard until dark, and there are the kids that don’t care one way or the other. By giving everyone a medal we make the kids that worked really hard feel like they didn’t have to (because they would have gotten a medal anyways). And for the kids who don’t care, they are being rewarded for putting in zero effort. This sends a terrible message.

Though traditional tryouts and a lack of inclusion prevent ALL kids from having the same opportunity to play sports. The pursuit of happiness is a constitutional right. If playing sports makes a person happy, they should have the chance to do so! Each child is not going make the elite travel team or win MVP, but that’s not what most parents want, just the opportunity to play is enough.

The emphasis in most sports programs is placed on the ability of a player instead of hard work. Compiling the perfect team, rather than embracing differences and learning to work together as a TRUE team does. We can all use the life lessons of a lost game, or supporting a person who doesn’t have the same natural talents. If we reward kids for working hard, we will get hard working kids (and then adults). And if we demonstrate inclusion and diversity (on our teams and in our classrooms), we will get naturally inclusive kids (and then adults).

Please remember these things, especially when registering and participating in youth sports. All kids deserve the same opportunity and the right to pursue happiness. The accommodations to get to that opportunity will look like stacked footstools, very different for each child.