What is the Goal of Youth Sports?

20 May

DSC_0035[1]Recently, I was talking with an old friend of mine, whose daughter is a high school freshman preparing for her first high school basketball season.  She is also a talented pitcher, and aspires to play high school softball.

He continued to tell me how the high school basketball coach is encouraging his daughter to play both sports, while the softball coach is pressuring her to quit basketball and concentrate only on softball.  Keep in mind, this young lady has not yet set foot on a high school basketball court or softball field.

A few years ago, I published a blog titled, Are Parents Ruining Youth Sports?  While this is not meant to be an indictment of all youth sports coaches, I guess — in some cases — you can probably add coaches to that list.

For years, I’ve watched youth sports coaches play a limited group of players — leaving several players on the bench for most/all of the game — in the interest of winning.  It seems to me that the goal should be player development, especially at the lower levels.  That and encouraging young players’ love for the game.  The best youth leagues are the ones that mandate fair (and not necessarily equal) playing time for every child.  Kids grow and develop differently, and there’s no guarantee that the best 9 or 10 year-old athletes will grow up to be capable high school players.  Even in high school, how does it benefit a basketball program when the freshman coach only plays 6 or 7 kids?  What does it really mean if the middle school team goes undefeated?

Some youth coaches put a lot of pressure on kids to specialize in one sport — and play it year-round — at a very young age.  They try to sell the athlete and the parents on the value of concentrating on one sport in the interest of high school stardom and a college scholarship.  In reality, only a portion of youth athletes go on to become “elite” high school athletes, and only a fraction of those players eventually earn athletic scholarships (see The Race to Nowhere In Youth Sports).

Ultimately, Youth Sports Should Focus on FUNdamentals and Developing Athleticism in Youth Athletes.  Too often, parents and coaches are chasing their own aspirations and dreams instead of helping their children and players explore their interests and passions.

Youth sports coaches and programs should focus not only on creating better athletes, but also better people.  There are lots of valuable life lessons that can be learned through participation in sports.

Do your “homework” when it comes to choosing a sports coach, team, or organization for your child.  You can’t always be selective, especially as it relates to in-school sports, but you have much more latitude when selecting the appropriate club or travel team for your child.


Your thoughts?

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