Pandemic Represents a Chance to Reset Youth Sports for the Better Going Forward
By Ken Reed
The pandemic has shut down a good portion of youth sports activities across the country. This has caused a lot of frustration for kids, parents, coaches and youth sports organizations.
Obviously, the goal is to keep children, and the adults they live with, as safe as possible during the pandemic. However, the pause in youth sports activities is negatively impacting our young people in many ways.
There has been nearly a 50 per cent drop in physical activity among U.S. children from the start of the pandemic, according to a survey done in September by the Aspen Institute. That spike in physical inactivity will undoubtedly have negative health implications.
In addition, many kids are struggling mentally and emotionally without sports. Suverys have shown that feelings of anxiety and depression have spiked during the pandemic among young athletes.
What’s also concerning is that young people are finding things other than sports to spend their time on during the shutdown. Their interest in playing sports has dropped. Nearly three out of 10 children who played a sport before the pandemic are no longer interested in participating, according to the Aspen Institute study.
The youth sports industry needed to start working together in a more coordinated way before the pandemic to increase participation, safety, etc. Given the statistics noted above, an integrated approach is even more important today.
“To have any chance for success, the youth sports industry must utilize and rely on those lifelong traits we learned from playing sports,” writes Brian Litvack, the CEO and co-founder of LeagueApps, a youth sports management platform, in a recent Sportico article. “We need to all work together as a team.”
Ah yes, teamwork. Coordination has never been an American strength in the world of sports (off the field that is), from the pro level down to the youth level. Countries like Canada and Australia have done a much better job integrating youth sports into the country’s overall sports policy initiatives.
Litvack lists several recommendations to make the youth sports industry more cohesive coming out of the pandemic, including:
Government participation — “Federal, state and local governments recognized the importance of youth sports during the pandemic,” writes Litvack.
“We now need to leverage that awareness to solicit government support and structured programs to support youth sports communities. We need to educate government agencies on their roles in youth sports.”
As an example, PLAY Sports Coalition, is a youth sports policy advocacy organization pushing for policies that advance the youth sports field.
More involvement from professional sports leagues and clubs — “The pros have a vested interest in developing the next generation of players and fans,” writes Litvack.
“We need these organizations to continue their efforts to invest in youth sport (and the future of all sports). Professional sports can help drive new ways to organize the ‘bottom of the pyramid’ and support rec programs—an area of youth sports that has struggled to evolve.”
You can read more about Litvack’s ideas for unifying the youth sports world here.
— Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans
Sports Forum Podcast
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, and has a long involvement with the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sport (now called the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition). We discuss the state of college athletics today, given the pressures of NIL, the transfer portal, sports gambling and huge media contracts. McMillen then provides great perspective on the poor state of physical fitness our young people are experiencing today.
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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.
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.
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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