Editorial-Opinion April 2024

Daryl Kirby | April 1, 2024

There’s too much noise, stress and angst in today’s world. People with a passion for the outdoors know a peace and calm, a release. We have—thanks be to God—a window into a world far from the struggles of everyday life.

The rhythmic clatter and gurgle of your buzzbait will not magically make your credit card debt disappear. But living in that moment… on the water, the smells and sounds of springtime in Georgia, the lines of buzzbait bubbles leaving a mosaic across the water’s surface, seeing that one line broken where a largemouth blew up on your bait…

Interesting aspect of this amazing outdoor therapy available to everyone in this country—it only works if you’re out there. If you missed opening morning of turkey season or didn’t put a line in the water last weekend, what kept you away?

When my kids were young, the answer was simple. It was youth sports. Our weekends from daylight to midnight were spent at ball fields. Those were some wonderful times, fantastic memories of great friends and special moments. There were great life lessons for the kids. Rewards for extraordinary effort, the value of perseverance, learning how to deal with adversity and loss.

But at what cost? And I don’t mean financial… Lord knows we can do that math, and it’s not pretty.

How many magical hunting and fishing experiences were sacrificed?

My daughter played travel softball. It started with a 10-year-old rec league team in our rural county. Lots of her close friends played, and the kids and parents had a blast at the games. Then they picked an all-star team, and that team won their district tournament and went to a rec league state championship. The other ‘rec league’ teams showed up with fancy wrapped trailers emblazoned with cool names like Aces, Bombers, Elite Academy. That was our introduction to travel softball. Thank goodness for run rules.

The parents came home from that state tournament shellacking and decided to form a travel ball team. We drank the cool aid, paid for extra hitting lessons, and after a few years turned that original group of rec league girls into an “A Ball” team. As a freshman in high school, my daughter’s team ended one run short of a state championship. Through hard work, long days and nights at ball fields and extra lessons, our little group of rec league girls had blossomed into a fine ball team.

Then, the summer before her junior year, my daughter said she wanted to quit softball. She said she wanted to focus on school and make it into UGA. Mom and dad weren’t so sure. I remember being at a pre-season meeting with the coach for players and parents. I was there, and my daughter wasn’t.

My bulb doesn’t always burn bright, but the light finally turned on a few days later, not surprisingly while on the tractor bush hogging… the smells of diesel and satisfying progress of the lines of cut grass. Seat time on a tractor, for me, is not unlike when I’m hunting or fishing. It’s a time when the mind settles and thoughts become more clear. I stopped focusing on all the time and effort spent on softball—sunk costs—and with clarity I thought about the young lady who gave my daughter hitting lessons. She had played softball at the highest level, at one of the top SEC schools and even a season in a pro softball league. Unlike 99% of the girls who play travel softball, she made it to the absolute pinnacle, the top of the mountain. Now, in her mid 20s, she was scraping by giving hitting lessons.

I’m not anti youth sports. Far from it. But like everything in life, there should be a balance, an even keel. If a coach threatens to cut your kid for missing a tournament on opening weekend of turkey season, maybe that’s not the right team. If a kid’s entire life revolves around a singular pursuit, where does that leave them when they take off the cleats for the last time?

More than ever, in my opinion, kids need to spend more weekends at the hunting property, more days on the lake. Plant that seed and nurture it. We can have both—a wonderful youth sports experience and a wonderful time outdoors.

Your kids, and one day your grandkids, will benefit, because a passion for the outdoors is generational. But just like a line of buzzbait bubbles on the surface of a lake, that generational lineage, that passion for the outdoors, it can be broken. Unlike a line of buzzbait bubbles, this line being broken is not good to see.

Become a GON subscriber and enjoy full access to ALL of our content.

New monthly payment option available!


Leave a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.