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Commentary Apr 07, 2015

LeBolt: Real parents don’t need instructions

WendyLeBolt-Header“Kids don’t come with instructions.” That’s often the lament of a group of parents frustrated by kid behavior that’s unexplainable.

How in the world do you guide something you love dearly, feel completely responsible for and yet have no clue how to manage? That’s the first thing that comes to mind as we read, yet again, another hard-to-believe tale of parents and kids and coaches and leagues. (volleyball parents suing over playing time)

Honestly, I’m a bit tired of the bashing. I’m not trying to get it wrong with my kids. Are you?

+READ: LeBolt: Strategies to ace your first college soccer recruiting visit

Blue Size 5So, over the weekend, my youngest daughter, now entering her final season of high school soccer, asked if I would take her to get a new soccer ball. She has been pumping hers full of air several times at every practice for the last several weeks. (Bad parent! Very, bad parent!)

Mind you, she could afford a new ball, but I’m a soft touch, especially since I’m counting down the months until she’s off to college. So I agreed to lunch and a trip to the sporting goods store. There, we picked out a lovely blue, size 5 ball, tried it out in the aisles to be sure it felt right and brought it home to be part of the family.

We were all surprised and bemused that the ball came with instructions for “proper ball care.” This is what was printed on the side of the box. (and my reactions, yours?)

  1. Remove excessive dirt from ball after use. After EVERY use? Who wants a clean soccer ball?
  2. Hand wash with mild soap and water only. Do people throw the balls into the washing machine?
  3. Do not use abrasive cleansers or harsh chemicals. What are we trying to wash away here?
  4. Air dry, do not expose to temperatures greater than 30 C/86 F during washing or drying…so, don’t play in the heat.
  5. Refrain from exposure to excess amounts of water… so, don’t play in the rain.
  6. Do not play with a wet ball during freezing temperatures …so, don’t play in the cold.
  7. Do not stand or sit on the ball…it may lose its shape affecting the true flight and play of the ball. True flight? That would require I actually strike it regularly, several thousand times, and even then, no guarantees.
  8. Do not kick the ball against hard walls as excessive impacts on hard surfaces may cause the ball to lose its shape…so, no practicing against the wall or garage door. Juggling only.
  9. Do not kick the ball on rough surfaces like concrete or asphalt… so, don’t use it on the playground or dribble it down the street to a friend’s house. Street soccer, a definite no-no.

Ball Care InstructionsAs far as I can tell, I am allowed only to kick the ball gently, on soft surfaces, as long as the weather is temperate, there is no rain in the forecast, and I have a Lysol wipe handy in case of grass stains. Why not just let it sit in the closet so it stays tidy and doesn’t lose its shape?

This is a soccer ball! What would possess a company to spend the time, money and ink to print out these instructions on the side of their box? (And I haven’t even enumerated the proper ball inflation procedures, printed next to ‘ball care.’)

It’s got to be because people have been returning the ball for their money back because it’s a) dirty, b)waterlogged or c) doesn’t go where it’s supposed to when my kid kicks it. Are we really blaming the ball? Ah, Junior, let’s return this ball and get one that works!

You can just imagine these instructions on futbols in Barcelona, Colombia, Costa Rica or Brazil, right?  Only in America! Is America really so ignorant, oblivious and litigious that manufacturers have to include disclaimers about normal wear and tear? Heck, why even put it in a box? Just give me a ball and an open area and let’s play!

Yes, there will be wear and tear; it comes with the territory. Let’s be reasonable.

+READ: LeBolt: Let’s talk about “the unmentionables”

I’m thinking this box tells us more about ourselves than we realize. We’d like to wrap our kids in bubble wrap, keep disappointment away and injury at arm’s length. We’d like them to play where it’s safe and no harm will come to them, and success is on every field.

PWSI-kids-vs-TriangleBut we can’t; sports aren’t like that. The best we can do is take reasonable precautions, make sound preparations and then release them to their choices and decisions.

Once we take them out of the box, they’re ours. We can’t return them for a full refund, even if some days it might be tempting. Yes, they will get dirty, scraped, bruised and maybe even broken. Most of ‘em will get deflated, and a few will fly off course.

Kids don’t come with instructions, thank goodness, because I might try to preserve them in mint condition to extend their shelf life or maybe to blame the manufacturer for faulty construction. I’d rather put them into play.