Stacey Loscalzo

May 07

Thoughts on “How Parents are Ruining Youth Sports”

by Stacey

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Thanks to my friend Jill (and Facebook), I just finished reading one of my favorite articles of the year. I suppose it is easy to love something that aligns perfectly with your beliefs and I know there are other sides to every coin but for now, let me share…

Our family is in the midst of scheduling our summer along with thinking about which activities the girls would like to pursue next year. Katherine has long been a jack of many trades and this tradition continues. She has yet to find a sport, a dance class or a play that she doesn’t love. This would all be well and good if society did not seem to dictate that all things become super serious, super fast. If you love soccer, than everyone says, “Try out for the travel team.” And by the way, the season is year round. If you enjoy spinning around the room, “Why not take ballet?” And while you’re at it, try jazz and hip hop and lyrical. And on and on and on. It seems to have become impossible for me to sign the girls up for one class or one practice per week. Doing so leaves me feeling like all of their peers are perfecting skills at mock speed while they are doing the equivalent of playing in the dirt.

In my new favorite article featured in the Boston Globe, “How Parents Are Ruining Youth Sports“, Jay Atikinson, writes, “single-sport specialization, the privatization of youth leagues, and the ranking and cutting of young children have become widespread. These are not positive trends, and coaches, educators, community leaders, and parents should take heed.”

I wish that people would listen but I realize how hard this trend is to buck. I believe strongly that we should let children be children yet I am one of these people who is signing up and committing and committing again to year round sports. If I am doing it, then how are we ever going to change the trend?

I wonder if we are simply caught in a culture that will not exist again. Atkinson writes, “Three out of four American families with school-aged children have at least one playing an organized sport — a total of about 45 million kids. By age 15, as many as 80 percent of these youngsters have quit, according to the Open Access Journal of Sports Medicine.” Something makes me think that those millions of kid who dropped out of sports by age 15 (the age when they should really be enjoying their teams), won’t subject their own children to such crazy schedules. Maybe we must just live through this and let these kids make better decisions for their own families?

I don’t know the answer and I don’t know what we will decide within our own family. All I know is that this is something that we really should be thinking about  and if possible, consider changing.

6 Comments

  1. Mimi says:

    Maybe YOU can lead the way…

  2. Kristen says:

    I’ve only been a spectator (pun sorta intended!) in this realm so far because at 6.5yo, my daughter has not wanted to participate in very much. She did ballet for one year at 4-5. Then she quit pretty early on the second year because she was overwhelmed by the practice time changing to after school once she was school-aged. Now, she has swim lessons for 40 minutes, once a week at the Y. She loves it and I think because it’s non-competitive. She has absolutely no desire for any kind of organized team sports, despite the fact that virtually all of her friends engage in at least one (and in some cases, three…at 5-6yo!!). In fact, I can see that some of the fallout, sadly, from her not playing soccer or t-ball like most of her peers is that she doesn’t have as close a relationship with those kids who see each other outside of school. BUT! Tonight she starts with the youth track club in our city. It’s a drop in kind of thing, organized by a coach, but you come when you can/want. No pressure. She loves to run and so we’re nudging her to try it, mainly so that she gets some other kind of exercise, meets some new friends and just has fun while burning off steam. I really hope that it is a no-pressure activity for her because I think that the pressure of ballet to perform and “do it all” right away was the reason she quit that. I wish there were more options for “for fun” sports/activities around for low-key, non-competitive children like her, and families that don’t want to go all or nothing with sports.

  3. Tamara says:

    So interesting. I suppose only you know the answer for your own family. I come from a family of five and that was five variations on the subject right there.
    I haven’t signed up my kids for anything yet, but my oldest is definitely ready. We shall see!

  4. I agree, this whole system is insane!  This is one of the reasons I loved growing up in a small town, because it gave me the opportunity to try a bunch of things without having to sacrifice others.  There weren’t enough kids to be able to cut a bunch of us from the team even if we weren’t that great at it! 

  5. Nina says:

    Yes! We do buck the trend (for the most part) because of our observance of the Jewish Sabbath, which means we don’t let our kids do games on Saturdays. That limitation makes us very careful about which leagues we’ll do. We tend to choose things that are just in the summer and just a night or two during the week for like six weeks in the summer. That leaves our school year blissfully NOT over-scheduled. It’s a sacrifice because we get some complaints from the kids AND I worry sometimes that we’re holding them back from the typical American experience. Ultimately, I feel they’re getting more than they’re missing though. Thanks for pointing out this article!

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