Friday, March 4, 2011

Am I What's Wrong With Youth Sports?

I recently received this negative comment regarding my post called Should Your Young Athlete Play Up. The post was about my daughter who was in kindergarten at the time playing up in a 3rd and 4th grade league. I didn't want the dialog buried in a comment on a post that is almost one year old. I'm trying to provide an honest and authentic blog about youth sports. And the honest truth is that I question and second question myself all the time regarding my over-scheduled kids.

Anonymous said...You are exactly what is wrong with youth sports. How many goals scored is completely unimportant at this age. The fact that you stated you are a coach and didn't realize one of your players was moving up is a huge tell. For your daughter's and other kids sake give up coaching and be the type A parent you really are from the other side of the field.
My first reaction was wow - this parent must have some anger issues. Perhaps Anonymous has been on the bad side of a bad coach at one time in his / her life. Who knows, but I wanted to take time to think about and respond to the comment.

My Response - In all honesty Anonymous - I just may be making a big mistake with my kids regarding sports. I often wonder if I should be holding them back. Should I convince them to play on less serious teams or for less serious coaches (BTW - I do not coach anymore, my kids play on teams with paid coaches now). Should I limit the number of sports they play especially in the same season. My wife and I talk about this all the time. We wonder if we are putting them at risk of overuse injuries. We wonder if they are going to get  burned out before they even get to high school.
We talk to our kids often and ask them about their thoughts and concerns about the teams they are on and their busy schedules. We provide our point of view and our concerns, but we let them make their own decisions. 
This is what they tell us - They love to play sports. They love to be on the field with their friends. I could not prevent overuse injuries if I tried, my daughter will play a double header basketball game and then come home and immediately go out side to our basketball hoop to play more. My son is the same way. Last week, they had a rare Saturday afternoon off. They each invited a friend over and the four of them played basketball for 5 hours. It's the way I was wired. It's the way my wife was wired and it's how my kids are wired. I wrote about this in Youth Sports Fanatics by Nature or Nurture?
By the way Anonymous - I agree scoring in soccer especially at that young age is not important. I was using scoring as proof that my daughter was right - that she could play with the older girls. I am glad that she talked me into it. And quite frankly that experience helped her make her current elite soccer team that competes at her age level

Finally Anonymous, if you read my blog consistently you would know that I praise my kids for hustle and hard work first and foremost. I do not overly emphasize the statistics with them. Why because hustle and hard work never goes into a slump. And hustle and hard work will serve them well when their sports careers are over. Plus if they hustle and work hard, the statistics will follow.

The Main Point

I didn't push my daughter to play up on a much older team for my own ego. She pushed me to allow her. In kindergarten she had the skills to play with older kids because she played against her older brothers all the time. More importantly, she had the confidence to play with older kids. If she did not have the combination of skills and confidence I would have never allowed it.

Parenting youths sports athletes is not easy. Your kids did not come with an instruction manual if best use. You are going to make mistakes. The very first game that my daughter played as a kindergartner against 3rd and 4th graders, I thought I made a terrible mistake. Here is the play by play.

CC hustled toward a free ball. An older girl bigger and faster ran toward the ball from the opposite direction. The older girl beat CC to the ball and kicked it. The ball hit CC in the face. I was standing on the sidelines less than 10 feet away. I remember her blonde, almost white hair, fly back in a quick flash and then forward over her face. My thoughts raced, I'm an idiot. I should have been smarter. I should have said no. I didn't I say no. I hope to God she is not hurt. What were you thinking. Her tiny hands immediately snapped up to her face under her hair and just as quickly pushed the hair away from her face. She looked at me with tears in her eyes. There was a brief pause as she was deciding whether or not to cry. They she turned her head to find the ball and ran off to get it. She never looked back all year.

Anonymous, thanks for making me think about that great memory again. I hope that you have many positive youth sport moments too.

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