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 #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, with over 150 camps in 30+ U.S. states and Canada. We discuss problems in youth sports today, including single sport specialization, the growing gap between the “haves” and “have-nots,” the high drop-out rate in competitive sports, and the growing mental health challenges young athletes are dealing with today.
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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.
Episode #24 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Mental Health and Athletes: Ending the Stigma – Nathan Braaten and Taylor Ricci are the founders of Dam Worth It, a non-profit created to end the stigma around mental health at colleges and universities through sport, storytelling, and community creation.
Episode #23 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Olympian Benita Fitzgerald Mosley Talks Title IX, Youth Sports and the Olympics.
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.
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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