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.