Wednesday, March 25, 2009

What kids dislike about organized sports - us

In St. Paul, the Pioneer-Press is running an outstanding series this week on the evolution (I prefer devolution) of youth sports into an ever more competitive, intense, college-scholarship driven activity. Shaw profiles children who have started young, trained relentlessly, and clawed to the top of the heap.

More revealing, though, are Shaw's stories of families that have just said no.

From Shaw's article:

"Kathleen Plasch gets steamed when she hears calls for parental sacrifice.

"They say they do it because they love their kids," said Plasch, of St. Paul. "Well, I love mine, too. But you have to be real."

"At one time, she was a single mother of three hockey players. "It was easy," she said sarcastically. "You just don't do anything but drive them from October through March."

"The demands on parents are "ludicrous," said Skip Peltier, director of the Herb Brooks Foundation.

"Some youth hockey players play 65 games per season, he said. His daughter, when playing seventh-grade basketball, had 63 games — and only 15 practices. That skewed schedule emphasizes winning over development of skills, he said.

"Marc Carlson, of Woodbury, said his 7-year-old son became a football dropout 20 minutes into his first practice.

"When the boys were asked to assume the three-point scrimmage-line stance, Carlson said, he saw a coach shove his son to the ground with his foot. A short time later, the boy was grabbed by a coach and fell to the ground.

"I put my crying son in the car," Carlson said.

"As a parent, I am sickened by this event. He said he never wanted to play football again. He was afraid of the coaches."

I challenge the parents and coaches who perpetuate this ultra-intense culture to contact me with the name of one pediatrician, orthopedic surgeon, child psychologist, health professional of any kind who believes this approach is good for kids. Just one. I won't be waiting by my inbox.


Patrick said...

I agree wholeheartedly. It's exactly because of competitive pressures like these that I've ended up coaching my own son's baseball teams. We may not win all our games, but I guarantee you we're having more fun than most teams in our league.

And the kids are still learning and developing, too. They're 6 and 7, so it's more about sportsmanship and focus than it is about skills and competition.

Anonymous said...

What I find troubling about stories like this is that they tend to passively paint all organized youth sports programs as extreme, with nutball parents driving their kids into the ground to live vicariously through them.

There are bad parents out there - in and out of sports. Kids are abused every single day. Yet instead of trying to indict the parents, we blame 'ultra organized youth sports' Programs are created because of demand. Educate the parents and you'll eliminate the demand.

I deal with bad parents in youth soccer all the time, and you'll find them in Rec leagues just like you will in leagues where kids are playing way too many matches/games. They don't know how to treat their kids. But that doesn't mean the program we run is bad for kids.

Yes, we should work to limit the 'extremes' in youth sports, at all ends. But when we do that, we need to make sure it's clear these ARE extremes, not the norm. For every kid being driven to 100 competitions a year by overzealous parents, there are hundreds who love the sport they play where they play it - in moderation.

We need to remember that AND remind people of that.

maggie said...

Being an athlete and coach and having grown up around this for many years I can attest to seeing these parents. I know these kids who burn out and stop playing sports because of overbearing parents. However, the point is made that not all parents go to this extreme. It's unfortunate that when I go to a game and witness a parent like this that ruins the game for me; a 21 year old. So imagine being a child and witnessing this. So much pressure is put onto these kids that I feel some of the "love of the game" is being lost...and I fear that if too many kids feel this way, the game will change for the worse.