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 #22 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Rethinking Sports Fandom with Author Craig Calcaterra – We discuss Calcaterra’s new book “Rethinking Fandom: How to Beat the Sports-Industrial Complex at Its Own Game” and explore new ways to be a fan in the year 2022.
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Episode #21 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Chatting About a Broken Game With Baseball Writer Pedro Moura – Moura is a national baseball writer for Fox Sports. We discuss how and why the game of baseball is broken, what factors caused it, and offer a few thoughts on how to “fix” a great game.
Episode #20 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Coaching Youth and High School Sports Based On What’s Best for the Athlete’s Holistic Development – We chat with long-time youth, high school and college basketball coach Jim Huber.
Episode #19 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Capturing the Spirit of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League with Anika Orrock – We discuss the hoops AAGPFL women had to jump through to play the game they loved as well as the long-term impact and legacy they have in advancing sports opportunities for girls and women.
Episode #18 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Talking about the 50th Anniversary of Title IX and the Lia Thomas Controversy with Nancy Hogshead-Makar – Hogshead-Makar is a triple gold medalist in swimming, a civil rights attorney and CEO of Champion Women.
Episode #17 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Talking Sports With Legendary New York Times Sports Columnist Robert Lipsyte – We chat about Lipsyte’s amazing career and some of the athletes he covered.
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.
- League of Fans Sports Policy Director Ken Reed quoted in Washington Post column titled "What happened to P.E.? It’s losing ground in our push for academic improvement," by Jay Mathews
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.
Sports & Torts – Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans – at the American Museum of Tort Law
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