Yesterday afternoon I attended a local high school regional basketball playoff game. The game was played in a college area and the stands were filled with fans from both teams. In the row in front of me were 2 five year old boys who seemed to be friends, surrounded by their family members. Before the game started, the boys were actively engaged with the people around them and seemed to be excited by the atmosphere in the arena. As soon as the game began, however, the boys turned on electric devices and sat, head bowed, playing something on the screen on their laps.

At the start of the fourth quarter, the game was tied. The noise in the arena was so loud the team members were having trouble communicating with each other. Other than a brief break at halftime to buy candy and a drink, the boys in front of me had not lifted their heads from their screens. The game continued to be tied, the teams trading shots until the last 30 seconds when, on the foul line, one team pulled ahead and won by a mere 6 points.

On the court, the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat played out in front of the vocal crowd. Some of the boys on the losing team sobbed openly. Sportsmanship was gallantly on display as the teams lined up to shake hands with one another, several members of the winning team hugging the bereft losing team members. Trophies were awarded to both teams as this was a regional playoff. Stoicism was on display as the losing team tried to bravely accept their well-deserved trophy. This team was the lowest ranked team going into the tournament and had won 3 games just to make it to this playoff.

This real life excitement and drama played out in front of 2 small boys who never lifted their heads from their screens. Does this count as attending a basketball game? Do the parents get credit for taking them? These boys would have had nearly the same experience sitting on the couch at home. In 10-12 years when the boys are old enough to be playing on a high school team, will they have the drive and desire necessary to commit to a team sport? Or will their parents say that they were more interested in computer games to play a sport?

I am a parent and I remember taking my young daughter to events that would not hold her interest for the entire time. I brought things to entertain her, but would engage her in the event by talking with her about what we were watching, having her cheer and understand the basics of what we had come to see. Parenting involves more than just bringing your child to an event; it includes helping the child engage in the event in a way that is appropriate for his/her age and developmental level. The parents of the small boys were engaged in the game. Would it have been difficult to engage their children?