WSJ Blog: Drawing the Line on Youth Sports

This is an interesting article posted last night on the Wall Street Journal’s blog The Juggle.  The author talks about the difficult balance that families face with youth athletics.  From the post:

One factor fueling the youth sports arms race, experts say, are parents’ hopes that a child will win a college athletic scholarship. Sadly, these are usually little more than a fantasy. Only about 2% of high-school athletes are awarded college athletic scholarships, the National Collegiate Athletic Association says.

New Survey Reveals Concerns with Youth Athletes

Champion Athleticwear recently conducted a survey in partnership with the National Alliance for Youth Sports.  The results were disturbing.  Perhaps the most disturbing to me was the fact that 45% of the players responding had considered quitting sports because of their coach’s behavior and 41% said their coach is concerned more about winning than sportsmanship.

Somewhere between 70% and 80% of players quit organized sports by the time they start their freshman year of high school.  Coaches should not be contributing to kids dropping out of sports.  If 45% of the players answering the poll considered quitting because of a coach, how many kids quit and therefore never took the survey? Continue reading

What is the Purpose of Youth Sports

A few days ago, the San Jose Mercury News had an interesting editorial about youth sports.  They ask some good questions about access to sports, the role of club sports and about youth sports injuries.

I’ve commented before about a great book on the subject by Mark Hyman. I’ve also talked about the Positive Coaching Alliance.

While they asked some good questions, here’s one thing that caught my attention: The editorial starts with an assumption that youth sports should be designed to produce winning teams/developed players.

“The burst of excitement when it seemed the United States might have a chance to get to the World Cup final this year has led to heightened hopes that we’ll make it someday. But without a revolution in how we deal with youth sports, it’s unlikely to happen.” Continue reading

What's With Some Coaches?

A couple of days ago I posted a video about a really inspirational story about a baseball coach making a real difference in the lives of some children.

Now comes this story about another baseball coach.  This time, not so inspirational.  Seems a nine year old player was ejected after throwing his helmet when he was called out at third base.  The coach wasn’t happy about this and demonstrated his unhappiness by punching the child.  The defense: He only punched him twice in the back.  Oh, and the kicker, the player was his own son.

The umpire and the score keeper called the police and the coach/father was arrested at home.

I say good for the umpire and the score keeper!  Whether it’s your own child or not, a coach should never hit a player.  As a father that coaches both of my daughters I understand that there can be frustrating situations.  But on the field you are the coach and you have to act like one.

WSJ Writes about Soccer Injuries

Yesterday’s Wall Street Journal has an interesting article about soccer injuries.  It really focuses on the different types of injuries that boys and girls get.

From the article:

More boys tend to hurt their ankles, while girls tend to hurt their knees. Studies have found that adolescent girls are four to six times more likely to tear their anterior cruciate ligament, found in the back of the knee, than boys of the same age, according to the Council on Sports Medicine and Fitness. Scientists are not sure why, but believe estrogen makes girls’ ligaments looser, and lower levels of testosterone make it harder for girls than boys to build muscle. Also, because girls’ muscles are different sizes and proportions compared to boys, Dr. Kirkendall says girls tend to stay more erect when they land, which absorbs less shock and can cause their knees to buckle.

Another interesting thing from the article:

Girls are also more susceptible to heat illness, according to a 10-year study of participants in the Schwan’s USA Cup, the largest youth soccer tournament in the Western hemisphere. In the two years when the heat index topped 84 degrees, girls were 1.7 times more likely to suffer heat illness—exhaustion, hyperventilation or cramping—than their male counterparts. (Both years officials shortened playing time, required water breaks and allowed unlimited player substitutions.)

The article is worth reading.

The Dangers of Heat

This weekend is the annual FPYC Father’s Day All Star Soccer Tournament.  It is a great event.  But it also tends to be a hot event.  Right now, the forecast is for 90 degrees on Saturday and 92 degrees on Sunday.

With that in mind, i just wanted to post  a reminder that heat is an issue for athletes – young athletes in particular.

This from US Youth Soccer:

Here are physiological/psychological reasons placing children at risk [from heat]:
1) Children absorb more heat from a hot environment because they have a greater surface area to body-mass ratio than adults. The smaller the child, the faster they absorb heat.
2) Children and adolescents may have a reduced ability to lose heat through sweating.
3) During prolonged exercise, children and adolescents frequently do not have the physiological drive to drink enough fluids to replenish sweat losses.
4) Youth athletes may be more easily distracted when they should be resting and rehydrating.
5) Some youth athletes may be under intense pressure to make a competitive squad and may not want to report feelings of heat distress or take the appropriate amount of time to rehydrate.

You can read more about heat issues here on this blog.

Hoops for Youth Foundation

I just learned about the Hoops for Youth Foundation.  It looks like they do a lot of good work for the community.

Created in 1999, Hoops For Youth Foundation is a not-for-profit organization that supports at-risk kids in our communities.  HYF provides the most basic tools that young people need to help them play team sports and face the many challenges of growing up in communities plagued by poverty and crime.

Their mission:

  • Provide leadership to at risk kids
  • Provide financial support to at risk kids
  • Provide mentoring to at risk kids
  • Provide educational opportunities to at risk kids
  • Empower at risk kids to become leaders
  • Provide at risk kids with a chance

We're #1! We're #1! We're #1

Parents of youth athletes often focus on winning.  Their child has to be number 1.  Their child has to be on the best team, has to have the best hook shot, or be the best pitcher.  Simply put: Their child has to be the best.

But now we know that the parents of youth athletes in the United States are themselves number 1 in the world.  I missed this the first time around, but a survey released in early April found that “those residing in the United States (60%) are the most likely to have witnessed abusive behaviour by parents at children’s sporting events followed by those in India (59%), Italy (55%), Argentina (54%), Canada (53%) and Australia (50%).”

I am sure this is not a list we want to be on the top of.  Frankly,the fact that the low scores were 16%, 24%, 25% and 26% isn’t anything to brag about.  While I give props to Hungary for their 16%, I think the Czech Republic’s 24% next lowest number is too high.  Certainly the United States’ 60% is unacceptable.

There are a number of resources out their.  I am most familiar with the Positive Coaching Alliance.  They have some ideas for parents.  We all need to make a commitment to helping change the youth sports culture that allows this kind of behavior.