There are a number of notable problems that plague teenage sports.
Recently, when I was a college sports editor rereading my very old column, the strongest image was of a parent at a minor league baseball game, telling his son to slide hard to second. base and take it out. I was surprised to see how much it had changed in the last 60 years. Rereading this column has rekindled my concerns about current issues with my kids, my parents, and sports.
I am partial because I like both the game and the children. I can feel the thrill of watching a well-played basketball game or a good baseball game. Even if my team loses, I enjoy the beauty of the game.
I get into trouble when the love of games is replaced by values and activities that interfere with the joy that can be felt in sports. I am amazed at the promotion of soccer spending on other games, some parents spend the game playing with their own egos, giving misleading advice about kids playing sports like a ticket to college, all the cost mindset through overstated wins by bodily harm.
While this does not apply to most parents, the significant minorities it does apply to need some reorientation.
It was important for me to examine my own biases for the perspectives of former players, teachers and coaches. Their voices are at the center of this column. Here is a sample.
From a grandfather: I have a granddaughter who is about 17 years old who is very competitive in sports and plays soccer. Some girls are really naughty and try to hurt other girls in the group.
She has already suffered a serious knee injury due to severe surgery that kept him out of commission for a year. My daughter always loves sports and she supports my granddaughter’s decision to continue playing. I doubt that I will do the same.
From a teacher and coach: Our sports culture is twisted. As a high school teacher and high school sports instructor, I find that parents, students, teachers, administrators, and school board members often place equal or greater weight on high school sports than academics.
Sport is important, but we must be careful when paying for sporting success. We need to reduce this insanity.
From a father, a coach and a sports psychologist: Among my children, the youngest, was a natural athlete who was sought after by high school coaches for various sports. While most of the parents were fine, some pushed their dream of getting a job at the college level.
One night the Lacrosse coach held a mandatory parent meeting, so he showed the senior sports psychologist a video that said there are 100 academic scholarships for every athletic scholarship. Accessing his children’s books (was) great advice that put sports in perspective. Some parents needed it.
From minor league coaches: The role of parents’ ego is evident in their extremely zealous efforts to raise their children. … I dropped more “parent coaching” players to beat their boys.
And from a teacher-athlete: I think professionalizing youth sports is a big problem: too much specialization means too soon, too many adults make money for kids, too many uneven barriers to entry.
I’m a huge advocate for youth sports, but parents should sometimes go out of the way and have fun with their kids. There have also been some good reports from HBO and ESPN about the increase in injuries among children.
The answer is not easy. The values and priorities included are difficult to change. But many parents, educators, and coaches need to re-examine their priorities and actions. It seems to me that this significant minority undermines the beauty of the games and that young athletes commit a very clear injustice.
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