Thursday, July 23, 2015

What's happened to kid's sports?

I'm not that old that I can't recall my participation in sports as a kid. Where I grew up, choices were lean and toward the traditional side. Springtime was baseball, Summer was baseball, Fall was football  and Winter was basketball - my favorite.

I recall a few of my friend's dads as the coaches of my summer teams and you learned how to play along the way. I don't remember baseball clinics, swing coaches, pitching coaches and all the paid instruction that seems to have crept into youth sports today. I don't remember parents screaming at their children for bad plays, umpires being berated for bad calls and coaches who made our national past time a bloodsport.

Truth be told, I was a sub par athlete until high school rolled around and I found my calling - track & field. Sadly, my lone regret to this point in my life, I did not apply the effort and dedication that would have allowed me to be a much better runner at that time. I was good...I could have been great.
My AAA Tigers on Opening Day 2015
Enough about the past, my curiousness lies in what is currently going on in youth sports. I will speak mostly concerning the youth sports in my small town.

Where to begin? On the positive side, there is such a wide variety of sports for kids to participate in today. Beyond the great amount of choices is where things get dicey:

- crazy parents
- arrogant kids
- specializing in 1 sport
- private lessons, private lessons, private lessons
- travel sports teams
- recreational sports teams
- hardcore, over the top coaches
- poor coaching
- cheating
- nepotism

I could do this all day. In the last 12 months, I have seen every example of the above and more. As a volunteer coach, I have been subject to hyper-critical coaches, aggressive parents and ill mannered, arrogant kids.

When did youth sport become a status symbol? Parents, please stop living vicariously through your child. If your youth sports experience did not leave you satisfied, stop pushing your child to be the player you weren't.  Rather than push your kids to be great athletes, teach them to be good children first.

I'm doing ok but I still have to ask myself, where does the money come from? The amount spent on gear - $250 Mako bats - really? The amount of money spent of private baseball lessons, basketball lessons, soccer lessons. Those are the private lessons, let's not forget about the endless number of clinics and camps kids attend these days. This is such a tough topic for me as my kids are living all of these issues. Yes, I am, to some degree, contributing to the problem. My boys take private basketball lessons and I have paid for hitting instruction. Yes, they are 10 and 11 years old and not likely to receive Division 1 scholarships however, to be able to even be considered for some teams, they need to be putting in this "extra" time.
24 - that's my boy!!
I have had the pleasure to coach baseball and a little basketball over the last 6 years. I have run into all kinds of coaches. Sadly, what I see most are men who have little interest in coaching an entire team as they seem to have an agenda that involves seeing their child get all the help they need, the most playing time possible and positions that are best suited to their child's interests. I have been witness to baseball drafts that treat kids like meat - I'm talking about 10 year olds - I've listened to men mock children and their lack of ability. I am sometimes left to wonder what would be said about my kids if I wasn't in the room? Don't get me wrong, I've seen a few guys coaching with the right intentions however, the few good ones are far outnumbered by the bad ones.

This discussion could run on for days. I've already left and returned to this post over the span of a couple of days. In short, let kids be kids, don't force your child to play a sport they have no interest in playing. Ease off, the amount of pressure put on these young players will ruin them from the sports they are just starting to love. The pressure put on them will also make them look at you differently and, if I am wrong and any kid from my son's entire class makes it to the pros, I'll be the first in line to overpay for tickets.

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