Nader Claims There’s Too Much Adult Ego In Youth and High School Sports

Ralph Nader announced today that his sports reform project, League of Fans, is releasing a special report on the state of youth sports in the United States, including a six-part plan to make them more youth-centric.  The report is part of the organization’s Sports Manifesto.

“In too many cases today, adults – driven by ego and greed – are warping the original intent of youth sports,” said Nader.  “Children as young as nine and ten years-old are being forced to specialize in a single sport by coaches and parents with stars and/or dollar signs in their eyes.  In the quest for that elusive athletic scholarship, Olympic team berth, or even a pro sports career, our children are being turned into mini-professionals who when not training with their competitive club team are being dragged to a personal trainer or some elite camp or tournament.  The results too often aren’t pretty:  emotional burnout, overuse injuries, and kids dropping out of sports by age 13 because the fun is gone.”

Ken Reed, League of Fans’ sports policy director and author of the League of Fan’s Sports Manifesto, said youth sports have been hijacked by adults who attempt to meet their own needs through youth sports.  He said these parents and coaches usually have good intentions but the damage to our young people is real nonetheless.

“Sometimes parents want that athletic scholarship more than their child does,” said Reed.  “They’d like to be able to say their kid got a full-ride athletic scholarship to State U.  Others are trying to live out their athletic dreams through their children.  It’s called achievement by proxy syndrome.  For other parents, youth sports provide the centerpiece of their entertainment and social life.  And then there are a growing number of profit-seeking adults in the youth sports field –club sports administrators, personal trainers and coaches, tournament and camp organizers, etc. – that are all too willing to make a buck off parents’ dreams of athletic glory for their children.”

Reed said many developments in our youth sports culture are scary, including the following:

Research shows that nearly 80 percent of all children who play adult-organized youth sports drop out by the time they’re 13.  The reason most often cited is that it’s no longer fun.

In recent years, overuse injuries have quadrupled, and half of all pediatric sports injuries are linked to burnout.  The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons reports that overuse injuries account for nearly half of all injuries sustained by middle school and high school athletes.

The number of incidents of physical violence and verbal abuse at youth sporting events has increased significantly the last five years.  According to the National Alliance for Youth Sports (NAYS), approximately 15% of youth sports games played today involve a confrontation between parents, between parents and officials, between parents and coaches, or between coaches and officials.  That figure was 5% just a few years ago.

“There are a number of examples of communities and youth sports organizations that are getting youth sports right,” said Reed.  “However, there are way too many cases of overbearing parents and drill sergeant-like coaches who ruin the youth sports experience for young people.  Too many adults in positions of power and influence in the area of youth sports are driven by win-at-all-costs (WAAC) and/or profit-at-all-costs (PAAC) mentalities.  We need to flip the entire youth sports culture around and put the needs of kids first.  The starting point needs to be the question, ‘What’s best for the kid?’”

The League of Fans six-part plan for overhauling youth sports includes implementing a national youth sports coaching education program, enforcing the intent of the Ted Stevens Sports Act – increasing sports participation across all levels, requiring schools to prioritize physical education and intramural sports programs over varsity athletics, and developing a campaign to discourage early specialization in a single sport.

The full report, “It’s Time to Take Adult Egos Out of Youth Sports,” is available at the League of Fans website.



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