Years ago, I offered a speaking engagement to any community that would abolish adult-run children’s sports programs (except those run by high schools) and replace them with programs organized and run by the children themselves.

Each child who signed up to play a certain sport would be assigned a letter of the alphabet. Every week, a website would announce where the children in each letter category would be playing. So, for example, one week all the A, M, P, and W children would play on a certain field at a certain time on a certain day. The same website would assign three adult supervisors, none of whom could have a child playing.

The kids would gather at the site and choose two captains. The captains would toss the bat or flip a coin, to decide who got to choose first from among the available players. Once the two teams were constituted, the kids would decide who would play what position, which team would go first, and so on. If a controversy arose, such as whether a ball was fair or foul, the children would settle it. The supervising adults would not interfere unless it became absolutely necessary — a child became injured, for example.

This plan would ensure that the “teams” were different from game to game, every child would participate, and most important, the children would manage their play. Baby boomers will recognize my plan re-creates, with adult supervision, the sandlot games we played as kids.

I have long contended that well-intentioned adults have robbed children of opportunities to develop negotiation, management and leadership skills. When I was a child, older kids taught the younger kids how to play a sport. Today, adults teach kids how to play.

Lots of people told me it was a great idea. A handful even made the attempt to establish the plan in their communities, but support was lacking.

But maybe a new book will bring it back. In The Self-Driven Child, neuropsychologist William Stixrud and educator/entrepreneur Ned Johnson argue that the child and teen anxiety and depression epidemics are largely due to parental micromanagement. Today’s kids do not enjoy enough control over their time and activities. They are so thoroughly managed that they don’t know how to make good decisions with their spare time.

Having adequate control over one’s life is essential to developing emotional resilience as well as coping skills essential to dealing with disappointment, frustration and failure.

My offer is still open.

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