My kids have always been very active and they have been involved in group sports since they were young. Between my two boys, we have soccer, baseball, and basketball covered, and my daughter is in competitive dance. Over the years, and especially in recent years as they are getting older, it is not uncommon to hear me gripe about how sports are seemingly taking over our life. Sports are no longer a seasonal thing; they are a year round thing. The coaches expect more and more out of the kids, which in turn increases the demands on the whole family. The parents are getting disgruntled whether it is their competitive streak coming through, they don’t feel their kid is performing, they are unhappy with the team is run, or whatever the reason is, I’ve seen some pretty ugly things on the sidelines. I can’t even say that I’m completely innocent, because I know I’ve gotten caught up in the moment and have probably said a thing or two I should have kept to myself or only expressed to my husband out of earshot of anyone else.
My point is the culture of youth sports has changed. And I don’t think it has necessarily been a good change.
Last year I had two of my three children sidelined for overuse injuries. I’m sorry, but I should not be spending my time in an orthopedic office with a 13 and 10 year old with overuse injuries. It’s insane! Of course, as a parent, I need to take responsibility for that because, after all, I do permit my children to participate. However, I also feel as if I’m caught in a catch 22. If I allow my child to skip a practice, he is benched from the Sunday game. If we skip a season, they are replaced on their team. It all seems a vicious cycle to me and I haven’t figured it all out yet.
What lead me to writing this post though are some bigger incidents that have happened around me this past week. A dad in our town, one whom I know, was arrested for assault for attacking his son’s coach. Now, I was not there to witness the event, so I cannot comment to what actually happened other than what has been made public. The incident has led to not only his arrest, but he AND his son have been banned from the sports league in which he plays. The coach has supposedly been banned for using foul language with the kids just prior to the assault. I just find this entire episode heartbreaking. This is no longer kids play; this is real crime and punishment.
The next incident is actually two incidents involving a high school football team. First, one of the coaches was arrested for being in possession of steroids. A few days later, there were some serious allegations of hazing, details of which have not been released, and all football games for that team were cancelled for the week. It has now been announced that the whole season has been cancelled. I can only assume that what is happening is pretty serious because the prosecutor’s office is involved in an investigation. I applaud the Superintendent for taking this matter seriously and showing that there are consequences for your actions, however, I feel bad for any kids who may not have been involved.
This brings me back to the bigger picture of, when did youth sports go from being a fun weekend activity to being such serious events? Why are we putting so much pressure on our kids to succeed on the field at such a young age? A kid’s ability at the age of 5 is rarely a prediction of what the kid’s ability will be at 18. Kids grow, their bodies change, and with that their ability changes. Their interests may also change, and perhaps some of that is due to burnout.
What is your take on youth sports?When did youth sports go wrong? More importantly, do you have any sage advice for me?y