By Ken Reed

I’ve often said there’s too much adult in youth sports.

Screaming, swearing, abusive, over-demanding, win-at-all-costs (WAAC) youth sports parents and coaches lead to high rates of emotional burnout among young athletes (70%-80% quit team sports by age 13).

We now know that the same group of over-the-top “adults” is driving referees from the game as well. According to the National Association of Sports Officials, more than 70 percent of new referees will have quit within three years. The number one reason they leave is “pervasive abuse from parents and coaches.”

Of course, there has long been crazy coaches and parents involved in little league and high school sports. But as the country as a whole has witnessed the decline of civil behavior, the same is true in youth sports world. The concept of teaching and demonstrating sportsmanship seems to be lost on a growing number of youth sports coaches and parents.

Another factor in the increase of dysfunctional behavior by adults in youth sports is the proliferation of youth club teams. Some parents spend between $2,000 and $20,000 a year for club dues, trainers and travel expenses. The investment of time and money increases both parental expectations and bad behavior.

One thing’s for sure, if the ultimate goal of youth sports is to develop character and teach lifelong skills like teamwork, leadership and perseverance, we’re failing way too often these days.

Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans


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