Michelle ObamaIn many ways, Michelle Obama seems like the kind of mom we all want to be. Strict but reasonable. Kind. Loving. Fun. But when a list of her rules for daughters Sasha and Malia cropped up online, there was a big red flag.

The First Lady requires her girls to participate in two sports. One they can choose. The other she gets to pick.

The way Mrs. Obama tells it, this is a way of teaching Sasha and Malia what it's like to do something they don't enjoy and improve at it. That's all well and good, but as the wife of a youth soccer coach, I would beg her to find another way.

Youth sports are good for kids. They teach them to enjoy exercise. They give them socialization. And perhaps most importantly, they teach kids about teamwork.

But you know what happens when a member of the team really doesn't want to be there? It tends to bring down the entire team and ruin the fun for the other kids.

I see it every year. There's always one kid who is playing soccer because Mom or Dad told them they had to be there. Or maybe they thought it sounded good at sign-up time, but by the time they have to tuck a set of shin guards into their socks, the shine is off the apple.

What that generally turns into is one kid who is constantly whining, who is always asking to sit out a quarter, who doesn't take practice as seriously as their teammates. It divides the coach's time (nothing like spending half the quarter trying to convince the one kid to get up off the ground and cooperate!), it makes it hard for the other kids to learn, and it's an all-around morale killer. 

I understand the lesson of "we don't always get to do what we like" that Michelle Obama wants to impart. But it hardly seems fair to the other kids, does it? Essentially it sounds like the First Lady thinks it's OK for her kids to be that cranky brat who everybody wishes would just quit already so they can have some fun.

I'm not one of those soccer moms who thinks every kid on the team has to be the next Beckham -- my kid will likely never be any good at the sport. But I do want every kid to have fun out there. So every year we sit down and have a serious discussion before soccer sign-ups. Does she want to do this? Is she sure? Sometimes it doesn't work. We've had our share of bratty moments.

But you can always see how much better the team is when she and the other kids are all having fun, are all happy to be on the field. That doesn't mean they have to win, but they at least get something out of the experience.

Isn't that why we involve kids in youth sports to begin with: so they can develop a lifelong love of moving and doing something positive with other people?

Do you think Michelle Obama's "I pick/you pick" sports philosophy is fair to the other kids her girls play with?

 

Image via The White House/Flickr