Youth Sports Fall 2016

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The students in our Intro to Sports Administration course were again asked to comment on the state of youth sports today. Here are some of their thoughts:

By: Angela Cena

I for one, agree with John O’Sullivan in the sense that our current state of youth sports is in desperate need of a change. Although I’m only 23 years old, I remember a time, not too long ago, when youth sports actually belonged to the children. Nowadays, parents and coaches are continuing to ruin the fun and innocence that once surrounded such a beautiful thing.

As future sport administrators, we have obviously all seen first hand what positive impacts sports can bring to our daily lives. Hence, why we chose to go into this field. To hear that now, 3 out of 4 kids are done with sports before they even enter high school completely devastates me. In my ideal world, I would love to see kids find the same joy, happiness, and passion I was able to find in sports growing up.

My biggest suggestion in helping kids find this lies within the coaches. I think more coaches need to realize that winning, truly isn’t everything. However, turning players into respectable human beings and allowing them to have fun, is. Coaches have unique opportunities to be role models and examples for these kids starting at such a young age; they need to do a better job of exemplifying what it’s like to be a great leader and a great person off the field, not just on. I think once coaches start to focus more on the well being of their players, the fun will start to find its way back into the game, too. Kids will finally be able to enjoy playing the game for themselves, instead of playing for their coaches, parents, future scholarships, etc. It all starts with the coaches, but I think with their help, we can get youth sports back to what it once was; just plain fun.

By: Zachary Cohen

Youth sports in the US is in need of systematic change. Currently, more than 70% of kids drop out of youth sports programs by the age of 13 (O’Sullivan). The causes to this trend include an overemphasis on winning, a stress for high performance, expenses, tryouts, and injuries caused by specialization. Also the growth of privatized athletic organizations catered to the middle and upper class has led to demise of city supported sports leagues (Anderson, 105). Urban minority families routinely struggle to afford the expenses of providing elite training, transportation, payment to play, and equipment to their children in order to keep up with more fortunate competition. Studies show that physical education within school is also very important, as girls without PE classes rarely chose to participate in extra-curricular sports.

What can we do to fix all of this? Well we can start by making sports fun again! Parents have taken over youth athletics and have brainwashed their kids to meet their own needs. Parents, sometimes without knowing it, try to live out their own athletic dreams through their kids as a proxy. Other parents seek to acquire bragging rights from having a kid that was awarded a scholarship. One of the most profound reasons young athletes quit sports is because their parents and coaches yell at them too much. The stress that goes along with the yelling is also substantial. If we remove parents from the equation and ask kids why they play sports, they respond “because it’s fun.” I think we can make sports fun again, have kids pursue sports longer, and diversify kid’s interests in different sports if we try to promote innocent and enjoyable “free play.” Free play involves just going out and playing a sport with other youth for fun and pure enjoyment. Free play contains little to no coaching. All or nothing winning strategies aren’t necessary, however if that’s how the kids want to play then let the kids play. Being naturally competitive is not bad at all.

Other than promoting free play, methods to improving youth sports include: diversifying recreational sports opportunities, decreasing fees, emphasizing physical education in school, promoting sport’s natural development of honorable values and life lessons, promoting the creation of friendship, establishing leagues catered to different levels of competition, and improving diets, nutrition, and sleep habits to avoid obesity.

References:

Anderson, E. “I9 and the Transformation of Youth Sport.” Journal of Sport & Social Issues 37.1 (2012): 97-111. Web. 20 Sept. 2016.

O’Sullivan, John. “Changing the Game in Youth Sports: John O’Sullivan at TEDxBend.” TEDxBend. Bend. 20 Sept. 2016. Lecture.

https://www.acsm.org/docs/default-source/meetings-documents/ewws-conference-summary_final.pdf?sfvrsn=0

http://www.layupsandrebounds.com/keith-van-horn-blog/2014/12/28/dont-drink-the-kool-aid-free-play-in-youth-sports

By: Desmond Morgan

The state of youth sports in America has become an appalling embarrassment as kids are shying away from games that are supposed to be regarded as “fun” and “exciting.” It is well documented and widely cited that roughly 7 in 10 kids will quit youth sports by the age of 13 in America (O’Sullivan, 2014). But why? I believe that the major cause of deterioration in youth sports is specific sport specialization. By specializing in one sport, young athletes are putting all their eggs in one basket and taking an all or nothing approach to success in athletics. Although many athletes have aspirations of competing at the top level, far too many consequences are associated with sport specialization to justify it. According to a 2013 article in Sports Health, “Risks of early sports specialization include higher rates of injury, increased psychological stress, and quitting sports at a young age.” The pressures of being successful and succeeding are too immense for young athletes when they are concentrated on one specific sport. Just as any adult may grow tired of working at one job or a simple daily routine, young athletes are more prone to burning out from concentrating on only one specific sport. When young athletes become specialized, the stakes become higher, the margin for error becomes less, and most importantly, the game becomes a job. Youth sports are intended to be games, not professions. According to Anderson (2015), negative social effects of youth sports are not inevitable. Instead, these issues reside within structural sporting practices associated with youth sports. If we remove the mentality of specialization in youth sports, this will reduce the pressures of success and excellence that have now become associated with youth sports, and ultimately led to their downfall.

Reference:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3658407/

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