By Ken Reed
The twin forces of WAAC (win-at-all-costs) and PAAC (profit-at-all-costs) continue to damage the integrity of pro, college and high school sports. But they have also severely damaged youth sports. An area that used to be a bastion of innocence no longer is.
There’s too much adult in youth sports and it’s hurting our kids.
Less than a quarter of America’s children, ages 6 to 12, participate in youth sports these days. There are many reasons why participation is so low but they are all based on adults focusing on their own needs and interests rather than what’s best for the kids.
Youth sports are filled with unqualified coaches who spend more time with young children than their school teachers do. They are too often WAAC coaches who derive a lot of self-esteem based off their win-loss records in youth sports. Youth sports entrepreneurs — or vultures as I call them — are using kids as income enhancers via club travel teams, showcase tournaments, camps, personal training, etc. The sad fact is youth sports have become professionalized and over-commercialized.
One outcome of this situation is that kids from low-income households play sports half as often as children from homes earning $100,000+. These low-income kids are three times as likely to be physically inactive and that inactivity hurts their academic performance and leads to more health (e.g., obesity) and behavioral problems.
“If we’re really looking at being a more inclusive and healthier society, we should probably get these kids playing together more out on the field — everybody, not just certain populations that can afford it,” says Lisa Delpy Neirotti, an associate professor at George Washington University who conducts youth sports research.
Many of the kids whose parents can afford high-cost travel teams and training programs end up quitting because they find sports no longer fun due to overbearing coaches and parents.
Surveys show kids play sports for fun and to hang out with friends. It’s pretty simple. But adult egos subvert those simple desires.
“When you let the adults hijack youth sports, their priorities are going to take the place of what the kids want,” says Bob Bigelow, an author of several books on youth sports problems.
— Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans
Sports Forum Podcast
Episode #32 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Prolific Author Joe Posnanski Joins the Show – Posnanski is one of America’s best sportswriters and has twice been named the best sports columnist in America by the Associated Press Sports Editors. We chat about his new book, “Why We Love Baseball,” his new Substack newsletter called Joe Blogs, and we cover topics including how baseball treats its fans, MLB’s numerous rule changes this past season, how the sport can become more fan-friendly, the greatness of Negro Leagues champion Buck O’Neil, and much more.
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Episode #31 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Foul Ball Safety Is Still an Important Issue at Ballparks – Our guests are Jordan Skopp, founder of FoulBallSafety.com and Greg Wilkowski, a Chicago based attorney. We discuss the historical problem of foul balls injuring fans and why some teams are still hesitant to put up protective netting in some minor league and college baseball parks.
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 member of The Drake Group, a college sports reform think tank.
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.
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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