A few months ago, I wrote a column on how “participation” trophies were a hindrance to a young athlete's mental develop and ultimately, a distraction from learning valuable life lessons. However, I forgot to mention the biggest facet that could plague the next generation of young athletes—the parents.
Working as a sports journalist certainly has its rewards and I get to see the good, bad and ugly of what sports has to offer up close.
I watched the first couple of episodes of Friday Night Tykes, a show about competitive youth football teams in Texas, on Netflix the other night. The show allows the viewer to see a wide spectrum of parenting and coaching styles, some good and some, in my opinion, bad.
While working in Indiana I saw the bad. One day, I had the privilege of covering a youth Special Olympics event near Lafayette. It was my first time covering any event associated with the Special Olympics and I wasn’t sure what to expect.
The temperament I witnessed from the kids participating was inspiring. To see so much determination, commitment and drive from those kids was something worth getting out of bed for. However, the parents were a different story. From beratting, to flat out harassment, some parents changed the atmosphere of the entire event.
It seems like there has been a cultural shift in terms of how parents engage in their children’s sporting events. Look up “out-of-control parent on sidelines” online and you’ll find hundreds of videos and stories of parental misbehavior at youth sports events.
I think this has a negative effect on a child’s mental stability, and the numbers support it. This year, team sport participation from children ages 6 to 17 dropped 4 percent from 2009, according to a recent study from the Sports and Fitness Industry Association. Total sports played has dropped nearly 10 percent. One of the most shocking numbers from the SFIA—70 percent of kids involved in youth sports quit sports by age 13.
Some experts pointed to hyper-involved, overbearing parents as the root cause.
The study found that most kids quit sports because, “it’s no longer fun.”
Could you imagine if the Boy Scouts of America or Big Brothers/ Big Sisters of America had a 70 percent dropout rate. I guarantee some changes would be made.
I’m a firm believer in youth sports and the benefit it can have on children. Active kids are less likely to be obese and are more likely to have higher test scores, attend college and have higher incomes.
However, when it comes to the parents, sports has become a relative “keeping up with the Joneses.”
I’m not sure when I’ll let my kids participate in organized sports, but I will remember a couple of lessons my job has taught me. One, if my child has a natural ability I will make sure to foster their progress not push for results. Two, I will let them know working hard in practice and in the game pays off. I can not do anything about the amount of playing time you do, or do not, receive. Three, I will cheer your success on the sideline, where I belong.
Horace Holloman may be reached at (912) 489-9408.