By Ken Reed
The low-pressure, neighborhood youth sports recreation league is nearly a thing of the past.
According to Linda Flanagan, author of a new book called “Take Back the Game: How Money and Mania Are Ruining Kids’ Sports,” the core issue is that when gobs of money started flowing into youth sports “kids’ sports stopped being for kids.”
Youth sports have become less about what’s best for the kids involved and more about how some adults can make money from youth sports. Here’s the issue in a nutshell: As soon as you add money you change what’s at stake — for kids and parents.
And research reveals that kids hate that money is such a big part of their sports experience. In a study done by the Families in Sport Lab at Utah State University, it was discovered that the more parents spend on their kids’ sports, the less the kids enjoy it and the more pressure they feel.
Flanagan says youth sports are now a $19.2 billion industry. She also says there has been a 90% increase in youth sports spending since 2010. There are many reasons why this has happened but one is youth sports tourism. Travel sports destinations for youth sports teams are a growth industry for entrepreneurs. These facilities — which often include dorms, hotels and restaurants — pull in youth teams from across the country and host mega tournaments at their massive complexes. Parents spend a lot of money to take their kids to these events and the kids feel more pressure as a result. Year-round competitive youth club teams can often cost parents $10,000, or more, per year.
Flanagan believes today’s profit-at-all-costs (PAAC) and win-at-all-costs (WAAC) ethos in youth sports can be mitigated to an extent if coaches and parents begin to focus more on what lessons sports can teach kids — and how those lessons can be applied for the rest of their lives — and a lot less on wins and losses, awards and potential athletic scholarships down the road (a huge long shot). Flanagan suggests parents and coaches ask themselves one key question: What can my youth sport athlete(s) take from this sports season that will help them grow as human beings?
I like that. That’s a great question. Another one is to constantly ask “What’s best for the kids?” throughout the youth sports experience.
Navigating youth sports world is really not that hard once the adults involved stop being driven by their egos and begin to be driven by their souls.
— 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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Ken Reed’s Author Page on Amazon