Former athletes - especially those who've played at the highest level - often are the best advocates for a saner, kid-centric approach to youth sports. When Wayne Gretzky advises parents to back off, let their children play for fun - as he did recently - adults tend to listen. Other pro athletes I have spoken with over the years - golfer Billy Andrade, baseball players Tommy John, Jim Poole, among them - have been equally outspoken.
Kelsey Twist played varsity lacrosse at Stanford, graduating a few years ago as one of the top players in school history. Now she teaches and coaches at a private school in Baltimore.
This op-ed written by Twist for the Baltimore Sun is an eloquent and disturbing statement of what has changed about youth sports - and the price of that change for young players.
"While coaching, I often stop to consider my high school career at Roland Park Country School. I mostly remember face paint, spirit parades to Bryn Mawr, and tossing the ball around after practice until we couldn't see it any longer.
I do not remember stress fractures, personal trainers, lacrosse tournaments during basketball season, hiring a recruiting specialist to help me get into college, or paying outrageous dues to play on a club team.
I am left to ask: What happened to high school sports in the six years I've been gone? When did being a high school athlete become a job instead of a pastime?"
And Twist is writing about what, until recently, had been a regional and, in some respects, minor sport - lacrosse. Multiply by 10 and you are approaching the pressure on top high school basketball and football athletes.