Monday, November 26, 2007

Youth Sports: A Negative Impact?

Today’s Youth and Sports

Some of my greatest life experiences came on the athletic fields and courts. While participating in three high school sports I was fortunate to have been a letter winner in all three and earn a college scholarship to play baseball. Now, after playing and coaching youth sports for over thirty-four years, I have mixed feeling about the benefits of youth sports given the current conditions that surrounds our young athletes. As a high school athlete in the mid 1970’s, I witnessed very little negative parent involvement during athletic events. Football, basketball and baseball all had three month seasons and we did not have to travel for five hours to play a team in a tournament that shared the field with us during practice. I could not have imagined playing 70 baseball games in two months. Good grief. Professional baseball players do not have to play that many games in that time period!

So what’s happening in youth sports? As a parent, are you beginning to wonder if allowing your child to participate is worth the time, energy and dollars? This article focuses on some of the real issues that sports psychologist have researching since the early 1980’s.

In 1986, Alfie Kohn published a book entitled, No Contest: The Case Against Competition. Kohl’s book, which is research based, argues that competition is “poisoning us” and “that our struggle to defeat each other-at work, at school, at play and at home- turns us all into losers.” Kohl’s opening chapter supplies the reader with these words:

“Life for us has become an endless succession of contest. From the moment the alarm clock rings until sleep overtakes us again, from the time that we are toddlers until the day we die, we are busy struggling to outdo other. This is our posture at work and at school, on the playing field and back at home. It is the common denominator of American life.”

For some, Kohl’s word may be extreme, but for others his words hit home. A current article printed by the National Association of Sport Officials, list over 100 reports sent to them annually (since the mid ‘90’s) of extreme fan, parents and youth aggressive behavior that involved assaults, obscenities, threats, hate crimes and more acts of a growing violence in youth sports. Numerous youth sport and official associations throughout the country are claiming to have a difficult time securing coaches and officials due to the current atmosphere in youth sports.

If you are a parent or a fan of youth sports, visit the “Youth Sports & Psychology” section of for more sports psychology and sports mental health information.

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