Monday, December 29, 2008

The wisdom of Kelsey Twist and Wayne Gretzky

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.

Kelsey writes:

"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.


Penny said...

What Kelsey Twist says is mirrored by many former college athletes that remember fun childhood games rather than those scripted by adults. I consult with college-bound student-athletes and their parents about the college sports recruiting process and sports scholarships. I'm amazed that in the past ten years there has been such an increase in time, money and pressure applied to kids' sports by parents. The most important questions a parent should ask him/herself are "Is my child having fun or would he rather be doing something else?" and "Am I reliving my own sports experience (or lack thereof) or am I encouraging my children in sports for their sakes."

Mark Hyman said...

I'd like to hear more about your experiences with young athletes and parents. Please email me with your contact info.

Lorraine said...

With the chant getting louder and louder for youth sports to become saner and simplier why isn't it?
I hear parents saying the right things , but I see many more not doing it.What will it take to slow down the train to Pro Sports?
(OH,too many to many parents think)

The real winners NOT THE KIDS :-(