by Cody B.
Youth face many challenges in their lives, so why is it we as coaches and adults continue to add to these? Don’t they face enough hardship without adults adding to the load? I know that not all parents are overbearing, but a growing number are and it only takes a few to ruin the sport experience for these youth. Youth that the experience has been ruined for are much more likely to not continue to be physically active or participate in sport as an adult.
I read a newspaper clip called “Lets Put the ‘Youth’ Back in Youth Sports”, which is about how coaches and parents are putting too much pressure on their kids. The article says that adults who are pathologically focused on winning plague virtually every youth sport league. The author, Ken Reed, states that according to the National Alliance for Youth Sports, approximately 15% of youth sports games involve a confrontation between parents and coaches, officials or other parents. This was up from five percent just five years earlier. Then, he talks about how by the time kids are 12 most of them have been involved in some type of adult organized sport for up to 7 years. Then, he says that the kids have experienced several grueling post-game critiques of their play by their Coach or parents. It then goes into how more and more kids – some as young as 10 – are now being encouraged by “well-meaning” adults to specialize in a single sport in order to increase their chances of landing a college scholarship. He explains that parents and coaches need to chill out, as the chances of kids becoming a professional athlete are very small and because research shows that nearly 80 percent of all children who play adult-organized youth sports drop out by the time they’re 12. The reason most often cited for drop out is that it’s no longer fun. He ends the article by stating that if we help our youth enjoys sports, teach them life skills as well as sport skills, spur a life long appreciation for physical activity and make sure they play with a sense of integrity and sportsmanship, then we’ve done our jobs as parents and youth sport coaches.
With these overbearing parents also comes specialization, which has been proven to produce young adults that are less active compared to youth that didn’t specialize. This can be used to say that a possible negative consequence of specialization is dropout (Russell, 2014). One of the biggest reasons for joining sports is to have fun and another possible negative consequence of specialization can be the loss of fun, which can lead to dropout. With specialization the sport can become more like a job and something that seems more important to the parent and not the child.
As a child, I had the opportunity to play a few different sports during school and I believe that my parents and coaches helped to make physical activity one of my values. I think that if I had of specialized in a sport then I would be less active now. In my everyday life I have the skills to join almost any type of pick up game and have fun with it. If I had specialized in, say, basketball, then that would be the only sport I feel comfortable with and therefore I would be less likely to participate in any other recreational sport. This would limit how often I would have an opportunity to play a sport.
Specialization and overbearing parents will also affect the resiliency of our youth. These two factors can both lead to the youth constantly feeling like they are failing to make their parents and coaches proud. This is a betrayal of the parent’s and coach’s responsibility to be a support system for your child. Parents need to identify their child’s strengths and empower them to overcome their adversity, not be part of the adversity. Research shows that from ages 6 to 10, children rely heavily on feedback from parents and coaches (Martin 2014). These adults need to be helping to build youth’s assets and also must be a support for them. It is good that they are involved but they need to pick a more appropriate way to be involved. They need to ask the child what they want and make it about the child not their own desire to win.
Martin, N. J. (2014). Keeping It Fun in Youth Sport: What Coaches Should Know and Do. Strategies (08924562), 27(5), 27-32.
Russell, W. D. (2014). The Relationship between Youth Sport Specialization, Reasons for Participation, and Youth Sport Participation Motivations: A Retrospective Study. Journal Of Sport Behavior, 37(3), 286-305.