By Ken Reed
It used to be that youth sports was a local community activity. Youth sports teams — “little league” teams if you will — would play other teams formed in their neighborhood and perhaps a few teams from close surrounding neighborhoods.
In today’s club sports world, youth teams are formed with players from all across a given city or state. Once formed, these teams develop schedules that have them traveling to games and tournaments hundreds of miles away, often requiring plane travel.
Travel club teams — many of which require the athletes to play the same sport year-round — are inaccessible to a significant segment of children due to economic reasons. Moreover, athletes that would like to play more than one sport during a calendar year can be shut out of these single sport teams if they don’t give the coach a year-round commitment.
Certainly, these travel teams can place a lot of pressure on kids to perform, many of them as young as 10-years-old. It’s produce or get dropped from the team. But many parents also feel pressure, often of the economic variety. Parents have to come up with the money for their child to play on these teams, and many times it isn’t easy. According to a Harris Poll survey, 27% of parents spend at least $6,000 a year on their children’s athletics, with 8% spending more than $12,000 annually. Parents are taking fewer vacations (36%) or working a second job (19%) to meet youth sports expenses. Moreover, 21% of parents are delaying retirement funding in order to pay for youth sports expenses. For parents in lower economic classes, steps like these aren’t even options. They’re priorities are things like paying rent and keeping food on the table.
There’s also a time cost involved with youth sports. Nearly 20% of parents spend 20+ hours per week on their kid’s youth sports activities. Time spent specifically for traveling often takes kids and their parents away from school, work and other activities. According to a youth sports app called GameChanger, the average club softball and baseball team travels about 1,200 miles a year for games and tournaments. Teams in Colorado travel an average of 2,551 miles a year. Club soccer, volleyball and basketball teams typically travel as much or more than softball and baseball teams.
The result of the continued growth of youth club sports is that the gap between youth sports “haves” and “have nots” continues to widen.
— Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans
Sports Forum Podcast
Episode #8 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: How Can We Save College Sports From Overcommercialization and Professionalization? – The guest is Dr. David Ridpath, a sports business professor and past president of the Drake Group, whose mission is to defend academic integrity in higher education from the corrosive aspects of commercialized college sports.
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Episode #7 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Brain Trauma and CTE Risk in Sports With Dr. Ann McKee – Dr. McKee works in the field of neuropathology and has demonstrated that “mild” repetitive head trauma can provoke chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a devastating neurodegenerative disease.
Episode #6 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: The Need for Quality Physical Education in Our Schools is Greater Than Ever – The guest is Clayton Ellis, one of our nation’s leading advocates for getting our young people to be more physically active.
Episode #5 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Youth Sports with Positive Coaching Alliance Founder Jim Thompson – Thompson started Positive Coaching Alliance (PCA) in 1998 to help create a movement to transform the culture of youth sports from “win-at-all-costs” to a positive, character-building experience.
Episode #4 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: The Biggest Issue in Sports Today? Brain Trauma – The guest is Patrick Hruby, a journalist who has done extensive research and in-depth writing on the topic of brain trauma in sports, most notably football.
Episode #3 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Coaching Styles with Sports Sociologist Jay Coakley – The guest is veteran sports sociologist Jay Coakley, a former college athlete who went on to earn a Ph.D. in Sociology from Notre Dame.
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.
Sports & Torts – Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans – at the American Museum of Tort Law
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.
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