In Michael Rosenwald’s article, “Are Parents Ruining Youth Sports? Fewer Kids Play Amid Pressure,” he explains the decline in children’s participation in sports. According to Rosenwald, there are many explanations for the rapid decline. He briefly states that, “Some of the drop-off is attributable to the recession, particularly in low-income urban areas. But experts fear larger socioeconomic forces are in play, especially in the suburbs…” I love dismissive tone that Rosenwald uses when making this point. He really wants to focus on the main issue at hand, which is parents ruining youth sports.
As a child who grew up playing three different sports, I know how important recreational leagues are to children. Not all kids need some ultra-competitive league, and not all kids can handle that at such a young age. These recreational leagues, that Rosenwald claims parents are ruining, provide more than just teaching kids how to play fair. The leagues allow children to be physically active. With the dramatic rise in childhood obesity, physical activity among kids is something all parents should be striving for.
“There is little debate over the value of playing sports for children, although the risk of concussions in contact sports, particularly football, has become a concern for parents, pediatricians and coaches. Still, active kids are less likely to be obese and are more likely to have higher test scores, attend college and have higher incomes. And when active kids become parents, they start the process again with their children. Built on Gatorade and shin guards, it is a virtuous, wholesome loop. That is the idea. It is no longer the reality.” Rosenwald is doing his best to convince the reader that the cycle of kids participating in sports, then becoming active parents in sports and encouraging kids to play is broken. He is reaching out to the parents to change this and reinstate this continuous loop. The children themselves do not have the power to fix the issue. The kids just want to have fun. “Yet the No. 1 reason why kids quit sports is that it’s no longer fun.” The parents are the ones with the power to make sports fun again. They can’t be so caught up in the competitive aspect of the game because then the only person that loses is their child.
The article concludes with a section called “Fixing the Problem.” In the first paragraph of the section, Rosenwald states “This is how youth sports looks now: The most talented kids play on travel teams beginning at age 7 (or sometimes younger), even though many athletes bloom much later; the best coaches (often dads who are former college athletes) manage travel teams, leaving rec leagues with helpful but less knowledgeable parents in charge; and coaches of elite teams pressure kids to play only one sport (the one they are coaching), even though studies show this leads to injuries, burnout and athletes who aren’t well rounded.” My suggestion would be to ban parents from coaching in the ultra-competitive leagues. Parent’s should only be allowed to coach in the recreational and fun leagues. This would encourage a lot more children to play.
Another possible solution is to ban parent coaching completely. During my junior and senior years of high school, I coache a third and fourth grade girls basketball team. The league itself consisted of ten teams, and back when I was a player in this league all ten teams were coached by parents. In the years since I played, the commissioner of the league has been desperately trying to minimize parent involvement. He noticed that the children have the most fun when younger volunteers are the ones coaching. (There were also a number of incidents involving parents getting ‘too into’ the games. For example, parent’s throwing clipboards or on the ground in the middle of the game.)
Speaking as someone who has been both a player and a coach of youth sports, the kids just want to have fun. The girls I coached picked a spirit day each week and that was the most fun part of the game, wearing either crazy socks or tie dye or making posters cheering each other on. They didn’t care much about the score of the game. They only cared about learning a little more each week about the sport and having fun. It is really important that kids have good experiences with sports and teams early on because it’s something that can affect the rest of their lives.