I participated in athletics myself at a high school and college level and was training to see how close I could come to qualifying for marathon Olympic try-outs. I believe I would have been close. I do value what involvement in athletics can teach our youth. In fact, for some youth, it may be their safe haven.
However, I think we have all gone a little crazy with the extent at which we push our youth. In most cases, it’s the parents and coaches who are doing the pushing. We have clubs that are not related to school.
When I was young, you didn’t participate in organized sport, until junior high. We would play pick-up ball or maybe shoot some hoops in our driveway, but that was the extent. Now, we have youth leagues for everything. I coach in some of those youth sporting leagues.
My main focus for the youth is about having fun, getting along, participating, increasing self-esteem, and learning some skills. Their bodies aren’t always ready motorically for the things we ask them to do. But we think the earlier they start, the better they will be.
Honestly, I think we have gone way overboard. In fact, there are studies that show by the time some youth get to be in high school, they are burned out. A study conveyed that 73 percent of kids quit their childhood sport by age 13 because it stopped being fun.
They have met their maximum potential early on because they started their youth participation so early and they were driven so early, that they have become lackluster. I think it is exciting to watch an athlete excel and improve and have their best year yet when they are a senior.
There is a limit to a person’s capacity for motor achievement. There are a small percentage of high schoolers, in fact, I believe it is 1 percent or lower, who will earn a scholarship to play in college. And, of course, an even smaller percentage who will go beyond that, to professional sports.
There are athletes being recruited from colleges already when they are in ninth grade, or even earlier. Wow, I say to that. Kids are asked to do college visits when they are freshmen and are then asked to sign an intent to play at their college.
We also spend tons of money on athletics. A fee to play in a club can be hundreds, and even thousands of dollars. We think we have to keep up with the Joneses. I was reading an article on this topic, and one family talked of spending over $4,000 on youth hockey for the year for their son. This included fees, traveling expenses, and equipment. We know hockey is one of, if not, the most expensive sport.
We believe our kids will be behind if they don’t get going early. As a parent, I am in favor of having my children participate in these youth programs if they want to, and if they are having fun.