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I loved sports growing up. It didn’t matter if it was baseball, football, or basketball. If a ball was involved and there was competition, I was in. That is what I enjoyed doing. The sport changed with the different season and I looked forward to the challenge of each one. At times my Dad had to push me and encourage me to practice, but for the most part I was all in and I wanted to be the best at each sport I could be. Practice was just as fun as the games and it was a time to be with teammates and friends.
I am sitting in the car watching my youngest practice soccer as a cold front moves in and the wind is blowing 25 miles per hour. There are a ton of kids, parents, and coaches braving the cold temperatures to be at practice. You can hear the sound of fun as kids are with their friends and are trying to learn the fundamentals of the game. They are being coached by volunteers and parents that are donating their time. Since she is only 7 this is a learning experience and still a time to have fun.
Sitting here has made me wonder what has happened to youth sports in our country. What has happened to the parents of these athletes and is there any going back? Unfortunately I don’t see us moving backwards. Youth sports has become a HUGE business and parents are pushing their children to be the next superstar athlete to sign D1 scholarships and million dollar contracts. There is nothing wrong with encouraging your athlete to be the best they can be, but they don’t need to be treated and be training like they are professional athletes at the age of 6 or 10 or 12. It has become insanity on display and we have ALL been sucked in. What is the cost? How many relationships between child and parent have been damaged because of sports? What is the long term effect? How many times does someone need to be a buffer between a parent and a child after a poor performance or a loss?
Coaches, umpires, and referees are constantly being criticized and yelled at from the stands. These are volunteers. People giving up their time – doing the best that they can so your kid can play a game. If we don’t agree with the coach – we quit and find a different team to play on. We have blurred the line between Youth Sports and Professional Sports. We now think they have become the same. Have trouble believing me, just check out Facebook and all the kids wearing 4 or 5 or more Championship rings the size of their heads. Do you truly believe that your child will play in college or professionally if they have won 6 MVP’s and 4 Championship Rings by the age of 13? What are we teaching our kids?
The sports our athletes play teach them so much more than just the game. Sports is supposed to teach kids how to listen and respect their coaches, how to work hard and practice for a desired result or goal, how to be a good teammate and leader. As parents we get caught up only focusing on the results and the stats and completely forget about the teaching moments and the relationship. Of course it is natural to want our kids to be the best and to watch them excel on the field, but what does it matter if we are grooming them to be entitled jerks in life. How does your athlete act if they get the game winning hit or if they strike out to lose the game? Is it the same?
We have turned Youth Sports into a business and treat and train our children like they are professional athletes. We put pressures on them before they can handle them emotionally or physically. We expect them to be the best player and will mortgage the house to get them the best training and lessons – even if they don’t love the game they are playing. We spend several nights a week at practice and then an entire weekend at games. If that isn’t enough – we do it year round. We don’t go on vacation because our athlete may miss a practice or a game and then may fall behind or be benched. We have completely leveraged our time and resources so our child can play a sport.
Quality family time doesn’t happen, teaching moments are forgotten, and we wonder why our athlete gets burned out or injured. We then wonder why the relationship is broken when sports are finished. Your athlete probably would like to take a break but feels like they can’t because they will disappoint you. They will have a sense of guilt because of all the time and money you spent on them playing. Your entire relationship with your child can’t just be based on sports.
What is the end game? We have a very small amount of time with our children to teach them how to navigate this crazy world. We invest all of our time and currency into sports. What happens when they are done playing? 95% of our kids will be done playing after High School. If you don’t invest in the relationship with your child outside of sports, the consequences are long term and difficult for you and your child to navigate.
Have you prepared your athlete for life after sports? Have you been able to step back and intentionally invest in your child’s relationship off of the field? These are the questions you need to be asking yourself as a parent. If the answer is NO, then you need to regroup and prioritize.