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Sunday, 17 April 2011 22:46

State of Youth Sports in 2011 (at least in Las Vegas)

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Below you will find a post from one of our Facebook friends, Melva Thompson-Robinson, Melva Thompson-Robinson is an Associate Professor, Public Health & Director, Center for Health Disparities Research @ UNLV. Her post hits on the unfortunate trend in youth sports that we see more and more today: Some parents and coaches have forgotten that youth sports is about just that, "YOUTH". They have forgotten it's about the kids, it's about teaching, learning and most of all: FUN! Without saying much more, take the time to read her story and if you're a parent or coach: sit back and reflect a little bit and then read it again......

As clear as a Las Vegas spring day, I remember sitting in an introductory sports sociology class as an undergrad 25 years ago.  In that class, we learned about the horrors and nastiness of youth sports that result from parents, coaches, and other adults that

ruin the sports experience of hundreds and thousands of youth across the country.  I remember thinking how foreign that was to me, given that I had never experienced that in my youth, except to some extent in high school.   I thought, "Wow! I can't imagine that.  I was clearly lucky!"  At that time, I swore that I would never be involved in youth sports where parents, coaches, and other adults kept drama going by, in particular, cheating as well as being ruly and out of control.

Today, that promise really came to an end for me.  I am not sure if it was because there was a near full moon, the heat of the day, the emotion of a close game, the stress that all of us are under as a result of the recess or what.  Whatever caused it, I have reached a point to where I have my belly full and here is why:

Youth sports are exactly that:  about the youth.  Being "about the youth" should not be somethings that is said because it sounds sexy, but rather because it is what it is:  the truth.  The question though is:  What does "about the youth" mean?  I think that is  a stumbling block for many adults, particularly parents and coaches.  We don't get it.  We are too caught up in our own selfs and egos that we can't admit that:

  • we got out coached and lost the game
  • my team was not adequately prepared, so my team did not play well, which caused my team to lose
  • my team go out played
  • I don't know as much about the sport as someone else; hence I don't really know what I am doing as a coach
  • I am stressed out
  • my team is not as good as I think they are
  • my child is not as good as I think he/she is so my child has no chance of playing at the next level, let alone professional sports
  • my child is the one who screwed up in a key situation so that is why the team lost
  • I didn't make sure that my child was adequately prepared the game so my child performed poorly
  • my child got out played
  • I pressure my child to play at a level that is well above his/her head
  • When we can't or won't admit the above to ourselves, we show our youth that responsibility and adequate preparation does not matter.  The problem though is that things do not just stop there.  Most times we as adults then provide other reasons for why things don't go our way, such as:

  • the other team cheated
  • the refs cheated--I will revisit the refs in a few.
  • the other team plays dirty
  • Again, such reasoning teaches our youth that we don't have to take responsibility for our own behavior.  In addition, however, such reasoning undermines that integrity of other adults and authority by implicitly saying that these other adults approve of not creating a level playing field for all.  Don't get me wrong:  I know that cheating has occurred and does occur, with or without approval of leagues, parents, and coaches.  When, however, you are not on the winning end of things, cheating is not always the reason that you lost!  Before we go blaming others for our shortcomings first, we need to check ourselves as individuals, teams, coaches, parents, and other adults to make sure that we are not the problem that brings out the worse in youth sports.

    While we think that we are so clever by exhibiting to our youth that they don't need to take responsibility for their behavior, the youth get it.  They are embarrassed by our lack of responsibility and our behavior when we demonstrate our lack of responsibility.  They lose respect for all of us as adults.  They want and expect us to take responsibility for our own behavior.  They want and expect parents, coaches, leagues, and referees, and other adults to provide a safe environment for them to learn the game and to compete.  They expect us to do things right and fairly so that the playing field is level.  More than we care to admit, they are willing to lose to someone who is better than they are or who out played them.

    Tonight, I had the unfortunate experience of hugging 2 youth football players who were crying watching another game.  They were crying not because they were hurt physically, but because they were watching coaches, parents, and other adults fight in the middle of a youth football game.  Their concern was not that their parents or other adults that they know were going to be hurt, but rather that their team would be expelled from the league and they would not be able to continue to play a game that THEY love with their team, friends and teammates.  These 2 young men are the future that will be taking care of us parents, coaches, and other adults when we are elderly.  They get it that it is "about the youth."

    Where do we go from here?  Fortunately, this upcoming week in Las Vegas is Spring Break.  Most teams and leagues are taking a well deserved and much needed break.  As parents, coaches, leagues, referees, and other adults, we need to take a step back from the game to reflect on "about the youth" and the messages that we are sending to and modeling for them.  In the real world, responsibility and adequate preparation matter, so be that example!

    We also need to realize that very few youth athletes make it to the pros.  For example, of the hundreds of thousands of youth football players across the country, less than 1% will play in the Super Bowl.  Each game that these kids play now needs to be their Super Bowl.

    Having said that, please realize the professional sports does not condone the cheating, fighting, unruly and out of control adults that plague youth football.  In professional sports, players, coaches, and fans are routinely fined, suspended, ousted from games, and/or arrested for the behaviors that are exhibited in youth football and other youth sports.  In other words, professional sports leagues have taken it upon themselves to police themselves and to create a level playing field for all.  Youth sports leagues need to step up and do the same.  Parents, coaches, league officials, referees, and other adults need to be held accountable and face punishment when things go awry.  League officials need to set the rules from the onset in terms of what will not be tolerated by coaches, parents, and referees.

    As a parent, I expect this accountability by league officicals  as well as a safe and fair environment for competion as a part of my registration fee.  More importantly than me as a parent, our youth expect this accountability and environment as well.  By not doing this, leagues, in particular, as well as parents, coaches, referres, and other adults, do a disservice to all involved with youth sports, particularly the youth.

    Remember: it is "about the youth!" Make it more than something that you say.  Make it something that you do!

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    Last modified on Friday, 23 November 2012 07:25