By Ken Reed
“What’s the point?” asks Steve Foster, the newly named pitching coach of the Colorado Rockies.
Foster’s question is in reference to youth sports. What’s the fundamental purpose of youth sports?
“What’s the point?” asks Foster again. “What’s the point of a young athlete playing a sport? What’s the point of a coach sacrificing his/her time to teach and equip young minds and bodies? What’s the point of parents paying money, traveling countless miles, and sitting in stands in all kinds of environments and weather?
“The heart of the child is the point.”
Foster believes the win-at-all-costs mindset results in an overemphasis on playing performance and winning in our youth sports leagues.
“In a culture that teaches winning is everything, that skill development is essential, and that only the strong survive, we lose many hearts along the way!,” writes Foster in an article on youth sports.
“I once heard it put like this: a coach can be a stepping-stone by encouraging or stumbling block to a young athlete’s heart. A coach can be a stepping-stone by encouraging, equipping and engaging each individual player as they develop this relationship. A coach can also be a stumbling block to a player by discouraging remarks, demanding fundamental disciplines at a young age, and by disengaging and showing favoritism.”
For Foster, coaching — especially at the youth level — is as much about relationship building as it is about sport knowledge and the ability to teach fundamental skills.
“A coach can mean well and have a vast amount of knowledge in the sport but if information is all it takes in teaching then a coach could just distribute a book and demand for all to read it! A relationship is built on trust. And trust is built in the arena of sport when an athlete sees and believes that the coach loves them more than they do the task.”
As a youth sports parent, Foster believes it’s more important than ever in this youth sports era to make sure you find the right coach for your child.
“In this age of select sports and private instruction many parents are faced with the choice of where to go and what to do with their young athletes. My encouragement to you as a parent is to make sure you know the coaches and instructors that you choose for your children to learn from. If a coach shouts praise along with instruction and criticism then you certainly want to consider sticking with this coach. If the same coach allows freedom of expression and does not make every player do it ‘the right way,’ then you certainly want to consider sticking with this coach.
“Be careful whom you choose to teach your son or daughter. You need someone who helps flame the passion in their heart to be their very best. A won/loss record of a youth coach does not tell our society much about that coach. The fundamental awareness and discipline of his/her players does not tell our society much about that coach. What tells our society much about a coach is whether he/she was a stepping-stone or stumbling block to a young athlete. We measure this by the relationship they have with their players when that player takes off the uniform and walks into the path of life.”
— Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans
Sports Forum Podcast
Episode #30 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: The State of College Athletics with Dr. David Ridpath: Problems and Potential Solutions – Ridpath is a sports administration professor at Ohio University and a long-time member of The Drake Group, a college sports reform think tank.
Follow on Facebook: @SportsForumPodcast
Episode #29 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: The Honorable Tom McMillen Visits League of Fans’ Sports Forum – McMillen is a former All-American basketball player, Olympian, Rhodes Scholar and U.S. Congressman. We discuss the state of college athletics today.
Episode #28 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: A Chat With Mano Watsa, a Leading Basketball and Life Educator – Watsa is President of PGC Basketball, the largest education basketball camp in the world. We discuss problems in youth sports today.
Episode #27 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Kids’ Sports: How We Can Take Back the Game and Restore Quality Family Time In the Process – Linda Flanagan is author of “Take Back the Game: How Money and Mania Are Ruining Kids’ Sports and Why It Matters.” We discuss how commercialized and professionalized youth sports are hurting kids and their families.
Episode #26 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: How Can We Fix Youth Sports? – John O’Sullivan is Founder and CEO of Changing the Game Project and author of “Changing the Game: The Parents Guide to Raising Happy, High Performing Athletes and Giving Youth Sports Back to Our Kids.”
Episode #25 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Physical Education Should Be a Critical Component of K-12 School Design – Michael Horn is co-founder of the Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation.
Media"How We Can Save Sports" author Ken Reed appears on Fox & Friends to explain how there's "too much adult in youth sports."
Ken Reed appears on Mornings with Gail from KFKA Radio in Colorado to discuss bad parenting in youth athletics.
“Should College Athletes Be Paid?” Ken Reed on The Morning Show from Wisconsin Public Radio
Ken Reed appears on KGNU Community Radio in Colorado (at 02:30) to discuss equality in sports and Title IX.
Ken Reed appears on the Ralph Nader Radio Hour (at 38:35) to discuss his book The Sports Reformers: Working to Make the World of Sports a Better Place, and to talk about some current sports issues.
- Reed Appears on Ralph Nader Radio Hour League of Fans’ sports policy director, Ken Reed, Ralph Nader and the New York Times’ Tyler Kepner discussed a variety of sports issues on Nader’s radio show as well as Reed’s updated book, How We Can Save Sports: A Game Plan. Reed's book was released in paperback in February, and has a new introduction and several updated sections.
League of Fans is a sports reform project founded by Ralph Nader to fight for the higher principles of justice, fair play, equal opportunity and civil rights in sports; and to encourage safety and civic responsibility in sports industry and culture.
Vanderbilt Sport & Society - On The Ball with Andrew Maraniss with guest Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director for League of Fans and author of How We Can Save Sports: A Game Plan
Sports & Torts – Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans – at the American Museum of Tort Law
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Ken Reed’s Author Page on Amazon