By Ken Reed

We have written extensively in the past about the importance of our children being physically active. That is especially true given that the Covid pandemic has resulted in our kids leading increasingly sedentary lives.

The physical benefits of sports participation and other physical activities can’t be overstated. Our young people need more exercise, especially cardiovascular-based exercise.

That said, there are some potential psychological dangers lurking for kids in youth sports environments. Here are a few psychological risks to look for as a parent or coach:

Dehumanizing Coaching — It’s important to make sure your son or daughter has a coach that prioritizes holistic development and fun over winning at all costs. There aren’t as many Vince Lomboardi-type, kick-them-in-the-butt youth coaches as there were 10 or 20 years ago but they are still out there. One season with a tyrannical coach could lead to your child dropping out of organized youth sports for good. Talk to other parents about particular coaches and go to early practices. If you see a coach humiliating the young players on the team, get your kid out fast.

Overbearing Parents — Don’t be that parent! Too many parents have their egos invested in their child’s athletic performance. Over-the-top parents scream at their kids for on-field/on-court mistakes. They spend the ride home from games critiquing their kid’s performance. Remember, the number one reason kids cite for quitting organized sports is adults (parents and coaches) that make playing sports no fun. These are kids, not pro athletes. Also, according to the National Alliance for Youth Sports, approximately 15% of youth sports games involve a confrontation between parents, between parents and officials, between parents and coaches, or between coaches and officials. Kids hate witnessing these “adult” confrontations.

Showcase Tournaments and Travel Leagues — Too many parents want their kids to get athletic scholarships for college, or even to eventually play pro ball. That’s not a bad thing in and of itself. But it’s critical to keep that hope in perspective. The NCAA estimates that only 3/100ths of one percent of male high school basketball players and 9/100ths of one percent of high school football players will play their sport professionally. The figures are even bleaker for girls. For example, only 2/100ths of one percent of all high school female basketball players will play pro ball. Moreover, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, only about one percent of 8th graders will end up receiving some financial aid to play NCAA Div. I athletics. That includes partial scholarships. The percentage receiving full athletic scholarships is even smaller.

So, when it comes to youth sports, let’s all relax, and more importantly, let our kids relax.

Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans


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