Raising children in today’s society is not for the faint of heart. Raising children has never been easy, but it is especially difficult in youth sports today. Coaches and parents are putting a lot of pressure on our young sons and daughters. The pressure to succeed in sports at such a young age is taking the fun out of the sport by making it all about winning. A Personal Perspective
My own interaction in youth sports has been many: As a parent, participant and an observer. My experiences as a child in youth sports were mostly positive. In my early days of sports in school, all children were encouraged to play for their school, skill level did not matter. There were no tryouts and no one got cut. We all were equal no matter what our overall ability. Sports were an enjoyable competition between schools and were simply for fun. I remember playing on my elementary schools basketball team. My coach was the school science teacher and my teammates were my friends and classmates. Our practices would be right after school and we would only practice for one hour. I remember the practices as an extended gym class. We would just run around, laugh, have fun and learn a few plays. I do not ever recall a coach yelling at me when I made a mistake or made a bad play. I remember the coach saying, “that’s ok, shake it off, you’ll get it next time.” I never worried about being pulled from a game if I made a mistake. We all played our fair share. We played the game as a game, with an opportunity to learn skills, compete, increase confidence, and have fun, we were able to go with the flow, relax and play for the sake of playing. Even our parents back then would just sit and enjoy the game. They didn’t yell at us to run faster or play harder. They didn’t even yell at the referee for making a bad call. I remember my parents telling me before every game, “Have fun and do the best you can” and after the game no matter how I played they would say, “You played a great game”. They always asked me if I had a fun time playing. I always did. I didn’t remember the losses. I remember playing with my friends and laughing about how bad we played some days. It seems like in youth sports today, the emphasis is no longer on developing skills through competition, with others and with yourself, but on the win-loss record, points scored, etc. Youth sports are run by adults. Adults tend to focus on the wins. When an adult arrives at end of the game, as the kids come off the field or court, what are the first words out of their mouth? It's usually "Who won?" or "Did you score any points, get any hits, etc.?" The children, meanwhile, are talking about whose mom brings the biggest candy bars for snacks! If, we as adults, teach our kids to focus on the winning, scoring, and scholarships, rather than skill improvement and having fun than mistakes or losses are not seen as opportunities to learn, but as occasions of failure and are to be avoided at all cost. If children think only in terms of winning, the pressure is on. Over the years I have seen how the youth programs are turning. Burned-out teenage athletes, coach-parent conflicts and abusive parents are indicators of a deep and continuing problem in youth sports. Youth sports programs have become the focal point of many families. The increased interest in sports over the past two decades have promoted the increased promotion of these programs, as well as developed interest on the part of parents to encourage participation by their children.
It is disturbing to look behind the façade and to realize that children participating in organized sports are often pressured; they feel the pressure to fit in; they worry that they will only fit in if they are athletically talented; they feel the pressure that they need to win, to please their parents and coaches. Children develop their sense of fair play and their perceptions of ethical...
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