A collection of the best of our youth sports coverage.
Youth sports touches virtually every parent. And it doesn’t take much involvement in youth sports, before you realize that it raises incredibly complex issues of parenting, interpersonal relationships, health, exercise and fitness, socialization, education, societal tensions about how much to push your children, over-scheduling of our youth, and coaching and mentoring.
We’re all in it together.
To help navigate this morass, we present to you some highlights from our youth sports coverage:
In this article in his Parents Behaving Badly series, Hank Zona tells parents what questions they should ask of themselves to navigate the world of youth sports.
Kids know – almost always before their parents do – when they have reached their peak, of interest or athletic ability. Be honest with them and with yourselves. Support their interests and needs, not yours . . . We want our children to make a commitment, work hard, enjoy the positive aspects of the socialization of a team environment, and learn that competition is a good thing to learn how to prepare for and deal with. We want them to play for the joy of it.
In the search of a sport for his daughter, Patrick Sallee had to make a call. Now – like many parents grappling with youth sports – he’s wondering if he got it right:
Why do we have the urgency to push kids into choosing their life athletic endeavors early on? Is it fear they will fall behind? . . . . We never want to let our kids down. We want them to have everything imaginable. But we don’t often think of the unintended consequences.
Michael Kasdan wonders if we are molding our boys into well-rounded strong men—-or pushing them too hard, too fast, too young:
Little League in particular is deserving of serious attention. Different kids react differently to pressure, to being pushed, especially at this tender age. But most kids this age aren’t mentally and emotionally equipped to deal with it very well. For example, when you’re riding your ace, a dominating lanky right-handed fire-baller, it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that he is not Mariano Rivera. It often can feel like that from the dugout. But, when a mound visit to settle him down reveals a goofy sensitive kid, you recognize that he is not a Terminator. He is a nine-year-old or ten-year-old boy.
It’s altogether too easy to miss those fissures and cracks that develop, the nervous glance over to his dad, as the count goes from 0-2 to 3-2 and then he walks the batter with the bases loaded. And its easy to miss that our constant cries to “move your arm all the way” or “finish your throws” or “load up,” makes many kids nervous and can suck away the joy of a game they love.
In this article in his Parents Behaving Badly series, Hank Zona reads us parents the riot act for the negative impact we have on our children:
This all is not about sports as much as it is about parenting and the behavior of many adults. Group think, cluelessness, dishonesty, bullying. It often applies to many of the adults involved, not just the students. I have been a sports parent, and a youth sports coach for longer than that. I will admit I am not faultless. We are human, and as parents and guardians, we do not always behave consistently or logically when it comes to our children. As a culture we do not always behave consistently or logically when it comes to sports. This is not to say that there are not lot of parents that “get it.” And it may well be that for the many that don’t, at least their neglect is usually benign. But the all-too-prevalent negative anecdotes of sports parents gone wild have a major impact on not just their own children, but other children, and the way youth sports are viewed today.
In a world where pro teams start considering your kids’ stats as early as high school, John O’Sullivan questions whether the adults in youth sports putting too much strain on the athletes?:
So goes the all too common narrative for American youth these days, an adult driven, hyper competitive race to the top in both academics and athletics that serves the needs of the adults, but rarely the kids. As movies such as “The Race to Nowhere” and recent articles such as this one from the Washington Post point out, while the race has a few winners, the course is littered with the scarred psyches of its participants. We have a generation of children that have been pushed to achieve parental dreams instead of their own, and prodded to do more, more, more and better, better, better. The pressure and anxiety is stealing one thing our kids will never get back; their childhood.
Justin Ricklefs does some soul searching on youth sports and shares what his family is doing to inject a little joy into the madness:
Our kids have permission to quit a sport if they don’t love it. Not in the middle of a season. But if they gave it their best shot and didn’t enjoy it, they can quit no questions asked. . . . As a coach, I’m aware of my anger. Yelling so kids can hear, speaking loudly and demanding attention is part of a healthy and respectful view of sport. But man it’s a fine line between yelling and screaming. Authority and anger. My goal is to ensure that when my voice is raised it’s to encourage them, not berate them.
JD Roberto questions the accepted wisdom of our youth sports world, in which we are told to tell our children that it’s not whether you win or lose, but how you play the game:
The mistake I was making –the one made so often in the age of solicitous, helicopter parenting –is that I was losing track of precisely what lesson I was trying to teach. Parents tend to be serial over-correctors. In an effort to insure that we don’t go all Bobby Knight on our kids, we try to sell them on the idea that losing is just as fun as winning when we know (most of us anyway) that it isn’t. The real lesson is more nuanced and elusive and, therefore, much harder to communicate. Instead of teaching kids that deriving happiness from success is bad, we should really be teaching them that empathy must never be casualty competitiveness and that victory in the absence of sportsmanship is, in fact, the worst kind of loss. This is, no doubt, a complex set of values that will take time to instill. But if our goal is decent, confident, ambitious, children then it’s worth taking the time to get it right.
A ballplayer’s speech reminds Michael Kasdan of the good in sports and – more importantly – the good in our boys who are rapidly becoming men:
My . . . long-time passion is baseball, and I have been playing since I was five years old. Through baseball, I get to play the game that I love; have made lots of friends, learned from amazing coaches and enjoyed being a part of numerous teams. With these ideas in mind, I wondered what I could do to help out those who love baseball as much as I do, but do not have the resources to play . . . .
Photo Credit: Author (cover)