Play At The Park
September 18, 2020
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Starting Youth Sports Earlier Versus Later

Author: Administrator
It's already starting. I'm the father of an 8 and 10 year old. You can start to see the pressure racketing up already for eventual high school sports which is pretty amazing since most of the kids are out there to please their parents. It seems that zealous parents are starting earlier and earlier for kids in sports these days but is that a good thing? Like with most things in this world, there's good and bad so it's important to take a look at how this plays out. Let's take an honest look at the increasingly early push into sports.

First of all, sports can and should be fun for kids and it usually is. If you go out to your typical Saturday YMCA soccer game or little league baseball games, it's a big community event. You have the uniforms (which look pretty stinking cute on a 5 year old), the parents, and don't forget the real reason most young kids play...the snack shack with ring pops and popsicles. This is where great coaches and great parents come into play. Everyone gets to play and everyone is encouraged to their best and just have fun. I've seen really good coaches and consequently. really bad ones. That goes for the parents as well. It's not atypical to fine parents on the sidelines just screaming and showing disappointment. It's actually pretty sad. First, the children probably don't hear them over the din of noise on the field or in the gym. Secondly, all that tells the kids is that sports is not fun and maybe the parents are trying to work out some self esteem or personal sport failures from many years ago through their new found outlet...their kid's sports. We've seen it countless times where the kid plays all the way until get their voice which is usually middle or high school. If their general sense of the sport is negative from their parent's constant browbeating and reaction, guess what...they'll probably stop playing it. In order to compete at the high school sport level, it's important that they enjoy it and love the game. As I tell my team's parents, if they're having fun, they'll keep playing and that's how you get good.

I also explain to my boys that sports is not the end all be all. You don't want to peak in high school and then have the rest of your life turn out to a revisiting of the glory years. Anecdotally, why are best athletes in high school typically the least healthy and happy 20 years later. Sports is just one piece of the puzzle and I honestly let my kids know that aside from being great exercise, it's a great social tool. I've met new friends everywhere I've lived through pick-up basketball and that in itself, is invaluable. The problem usually arises when parent's main goal is that they play in high school. High school sports has become much more competitive and most of the sports are intensely skilled based. There's no way to get dribbling down proficiently outside of touching a ball for a 10000 hours or 10 years (the time needed for the master to any one thing being basketball or physics). This has racketed up what's expected at an earlier and earlier age.

So now, we have football practice at the 2nd grade level 5 days a week and year long baseball seasons. Almost none of our young athletes will go pro with a few going college and they better love their sport because it will dominate every college hour. With all that time and energy funneled into activities that fall significantly in terms of self worth and utilization after high school, are we setting up our kids up for the fall of a lifetime...a lifetime of looking backwards and not forwards? Aside from the greater likelihood for injury with intense sports at an early age, let's get back to reason we love sports to used to be fun.


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