According to the Center for Kids First, there are more than 40 million youth athletes that play sports in America today. These youth athletes have a plethora of organizations they can pursue. From super competitive programs like the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) which includes sports like baseball/softball, basketball, soccer and volleyball to the supposedly fun programs like PAL, POP Warner, and Little League Baseball/Softball there is a league for anyone regardless of their skill level or competitive fire. The big question is do playing youth sports affect the athlete in the long run? There are many factors involved in the competition of youth sports that in the long run may push the athlete away from sports all together. Not only is it the athlete that is involved in this process, the coaches, parents, and fellow competitors play a huge role in the affect youth athletics have on its athletes. As we go along we are going to talk about some of the problems associated with youth athletics, and try to find solutions to these problems. The first thing that comes to mind when you think about problems in youth sport would be the overzealous parents. The parent that goes above and beyond to push their child to his/her limits. A study conducted by the Citizens Through Sports Alliance gave what they call a “report card” showing the results of how parents effect youth sports (Emmons). This panel of experts essentially based their results on youth sports programs with ages ranging from 6-14(Emmons). Parents received low grades in the areas of a win at all costs mentality and overall parent behavior. Executive director for the Positive Coaching Alliance, Jim Thompson said,” We really hope this is a wake-up call. This is such an important part of kid’s lives and if there is something wrong with youth sports, then we ought to start thinking about the ways we can change it.”(Emmons) The parent’s role in a child’s youth sport experience could range from being the driver to and from practices and games all the way to being the coach of the team and officiating the game itself for that matter (Hedstrom/Gould). But what is really going on? Early studies have shown that the role of the parents in youth sports has become more of a problem as time has passed. Results show that the five biggest problems that parents have involving there child in youth sports include; overemphasis on winning, unrealistic expectations, coaching their own child, criticizing, and pampering there child too much (Hedstrom/Gould). There have been documented accounts of parents arguing with coaches, confronting referees, and even unforeseen altercations while attending a youth sporting event. So how do we attempt to remedy this situation?
One approach would be for the parents too fully immerse themselves into the culture of the league. Do some reading, attend informative sessions, and talk to other parents involved in the league to try and get a full sense of the philosophy and goals of the organization (Emmons). Doing this will allow for the parent to get a scope of how the league operates and see what values and goals the league holds true. It is important that the parent be involved in the children’s experience in youth sport, but it’s more important that they don’t pressure the child before, during, and after a contest. Just being there attending games, driving to away games, and joining in team celebrations will show a strong support for the child and enhance their experience in youth sports (Hedstrom/Gould). One final approach that I personally like would be at the very beginning of the season before you even have your first practice, the coach of the team should call a team meeting and have all the parents of the players attend. The purpose of this meeting would be to discuss the main objectives of the season and make sure that everyone is on the same page (Hedstrom/Gould). While running this meeting it is important to stress...
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