So I came across this article on Facebook the other day, titled How parents are ruining youth sports, and sent it to Dom right away. We talked back and forth for awhile as I was driving (sorry mom!) from work to the Olympic lifting gym and we both had some thoughts on it. It starts out well, telling the story of two dads who run a hockey league who’s sons are “hockey-crazed best friends.” Apparently this lasted until one kid didn’t make the mite team, and the two boys and parents never talked again….
OK, I can see where this is a problem. I’ve seen this happen too many times. It’s sad, demoralizing for the kid, and frankly kind of immature in my opinion. Why should that get in the way of a friendship? One of my best friends and I were always on the “A Team” growing up but our other best friend never made it. Did that eliminate our friendship? Absolutely not. Not making the team isn’t the end of a friendship. The article continues to point out that the professionalism of youth sports and single-sport specialization has become detrimental to the kids. OK, again I can get behind this.
“In 20 years of coaching youth and high school sports, I can say unequivocally that adult expectations are the number one problem. As we approach summer, when the living is supposed to be easy, too many families are searching the Internet for a private batting instructor, a summer hockey program, an expensive strength camp, and that elusive AAU coach who can get their 11-year-old to improve her jump shot. This is a misguided attempt to accelerate a process that may not even be occurring, since most young athletes will never reach the elite level.”
“But the fact is, approximately 1 percent of high school athletes will receive a Division 1 scholarship. And those scholarships, on average, are worth much less than the family’s investment in private lessons, sports camps, and other training.”
Woooooah, pump the brakes there. I’m all for athletics being fun, really I am. But the notion that kids aren’t, and shouldn’t be, competitive is a joke in my opinion. I met very few kids when I was young that didn’t treat schoolyard ball as a competition. Growing up, I played AAU basketball, AAU baseball, compettitive BMX, Ute Conference Football, and took hitting and catching lessons year round. Did I have some notion that I wouldn’t make it to the next level? Sure, every kid does. Does that mean I should up and quit trying to get better at my sports? Absolutely not. The journey to trying to become an elite athlete was the best part of it! I thoroughly enjoyed my lessons, training, and summer programs. I made amazing friends, stayed in shape, and was having the time of my life traveling around with my family to play.
Maybe I’m missing the point of this article, but as I read it I just got more and more turned off by it, seeing the message as “don’t let Johnny play competitive sports because he most likely won’t make it to college and professional.” I don’t agree with that. One of, if not the, greatest lesson I’ve ever learned was if you’re not good enough, make yourself good enough. That was drilled into my head from little league through college, and that easily applies to life. I wouldn’t be the person I am today, if my parents didn’t put me through all those sports, lessons, and competitions. You get far in life through hard work, not by picking daisies. And you know what? You can ALWAYS make time for that anyways.
When I have kids, would I do anything different than what my parents did, and sacrificed for me? Nope. Not even close. Take the article for what you want but those are my thoughts! Now allow Dom to give you his thoughts on growing up as an athlete.
I believe I went about it the right way, starting young and learning the fundamentals of the game. At a young age it was relatively unknown the effects that hits could have on the brain but when I was a kid that was the lats of my worries. My mom who was the one who pushed me into the game that I loved and hesitated to play. Once I got out there I knew that my destiny was to play football for a real long time. A career spanning 15 years, football was part of my identity.
Though football gave me a life I truly enjoyed, when I have a son someday I will go about it differently. Kids now a days are more competitive than ever, so are the injury rates. NFL’s concussion crisis has led to rapid decline in youth football numbers and justifiably so. Starting at a later age would be best in my opinion. Letting him lift weights while learning the bare fundamentals would benefit him more starting in 8th or 9th grade. Less hits on the body and developing physical strength I feel would put him at advantage in the high school world. NFL star Adrian Peterson started playing youth football at age 12, meaning it’s ok to start a bit later.
Rather than develop lingering injuries early in their career or get “burned out”, let kids decide when they would like to play. Kids should be playing as many sports as they can to develop differing parts of their athleticism and not focus solely on one sport.
When it comes to youth sports, make it fun! Make it something they enjoy. At the end of the day it is the kid playing the games and if they earn an athletic scholarship it will be on their shoulders.
How do you feel about kids’ participation in youth sports?