Red Shirts vs White Shirts

After spending lots of time watching girls basketball over the last few years, I’ve seen the negative effects of red shirting kids when it comes to athletics.

Red shirt: To delay your child’s entrance in to school to give them an advantage over their younger peers.

This is an increasingly common practice that is seen to a much greater extent in the more affluent communities, as they have the economic means to absorb another year of child care. In other communities where the population is generally of lower income, there are very few with the means to redshirt their children, and most put them in school at the earliest opportunity so as to not have to cover the ever increasing costs of daycare.

This creates another great divide between the haves and the have-nots, but in this particular situation, we are only discussing how it affects sports.

On the playing field, court, or whatever venue children meet on, the children from the affluent communities are generally much larger and more skilled in the sport, and frequently the size difference of the children alone gives them a ridiculous advantage. From personal experience, I have seen the laughable height advantage in basketball, with blowouts that make you simply want to scold the parents for participating in such a sham. I have seen kids whom I know are in the top height percentile for their ages, being towered over by opposing players who are “in the same grade.”

As a parent watching from the stands, it simply makes you want to boo as the kids run up the score and celebrate their wins over the little kids from the poorer towns. But that would be poor sportsmanship, and there’s no need to lower oneself to the level of the redshirting parents.

Those parents who hold their kids back to give them an unfair advantage certainly must internalize their shame and feelings of guilt for unleashing their older, more mature and advanced children on others, but it certainly isn’t visible to anyone who has ever attended one of these events. To the contrary, they loudly celebrate the results of that advantage in the sporting arena with total disconnection and poor sportsmanship.

Sports for kids should be grouped by age and not by grade, as the current method has proven to be a disaster for communities that are at such a disadvantage. As if they don’t have enough of an advantage with their vastly better schools and endlessly better economic opportunities that come from a privileged life, now they have to extend it to the playing field. Poorer kids have fewer chances to achieve success in any form, but sports can provide them with one of the few times with which they can truly lift their self-esteem, but it seems even that isn’t allowed by the gluttonous, self-serving, redshirting parents from next door.

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