Year-Round Sports... "Our priorities are out of whack"

#YouthSports   #FamilyFirst   #ChangingtheGameProject   #AKAWay

So eloquently put, I couldn't say it any better with a chagrined smirk.  "Our priorities are out of whack", said local reputable hockey coach Bill Lechner, head boys hockey coach at Hill-Murray High School.  Good call Coach.

If you read the Star Tribune this past Sunday or you follow anything sports related in Minnesota news or social media, there's the strong possibility that you saw Joe Christensen's article in Sunday's paper, Part I : Game On and On : Year-Round sports push kids to the limit. 

Part I : Game on and on
Year-round sports push kids to limit by Joe Christensen, Star Tribune
Families are pouring in more time and money — and more athletes are burning out

This one is not so much about the safety or health repercussions of sport specialization, rather the emotional and financial burdens of the topic. 

“You see families that can’t afford to buy groceries, but they’ll somehow find a way to get a thousand-dollar pair of skates and get to New York,” Lechner said. “It scares me; our priorities are out of whack.”

In youth sports, these are the stories necessary to forward on to the masses for their outcry of change needed before its too late.  Read it if you have a chance.  Here are the reminders and nuggets that stuck out to me from the article.

  • By age 12, (softball) (for article subject, Kali) turned into a "chore"
  • Devouring (kids & families) free time
  • Youth Sports is now an estimated $15 Billion a year industry (*and if you didn't see HBO's recent Real Sports Special : Youth Sports Inc., see below)
  • 2% (!!) of High School athletes get some form of college scholarship
  • Specialized athletes are 50% more likely to suffer lower body injuries (okay so they do sneak in some physical / health repercussion statistics)

If I may come clean...  I never want to disrupt the excitement of sports participation for a kid and his family of following a dream, much less disrupt their path to enjoyment whether that be playing hockey or basketball or... fishing, all year round.  I coach year round soccer players.  I see it first hand and I get it.  And as my parents did for me, parents you love and support your kids with everything that excites their heart.  Listen if you have the means to support your kids, you do it.  But........ 

...... It feels as though we have completely forgotten how to show our kids, to get our kids and to support our kids how to play, how to train, how to have fun playing sports on their own with friends and neighborhood buddies without spending the 10s of thousands of dollars and countless hours of pressurized training to get there.  How difficult is it to bring back "backyard games" or the "go get on your bike and meet up at the park or the courts with your buddies.  Is it possible?  Have we gone to the point of no return?!  "I don't know how you're going to reverse it", says Totino Grace activities director Mike Smith. Mike's right, what's it going to take?

My folks got taken by a college recruiting service when I was a senior in HS but fortunately that was for no more than $1,000.  They didn't know better.  They wanted to support my passion.  They also put me in off-season tennis and round the year soccer but that was a fraction of what these clubs make you pay today not too mention was an absolute blast without all the pressure. 

But how can you fault those parents who want to support their kids advancing in their passion.  You can't.  Just be smart about it.  Sports are so insanely glamorized its ridiculous.  I should know, I'm an everyday customer.  And with television advertising and social media so stuck to kids and aspiring athlete's eyes every minute of the day, why wouldn't we be drawn into wanting the bigger, faster, stronger, BETTER formula within year-round training to get to the top.

'95 Neenah Soccer State Bound...  No pressure, just a blast!

'95 Neenah Soccer State Bound...  No pressure, just a blast!

Again, I never want to tell you what you are doing is wrong as a parent supporting your kids in youth sports.  Most of you have been a part of sports for as just as long as I have and frankly, who am I to say I am right.  But I ask that you take the time to talk to your kids. Know what's out there and who and why you are paying for it. And do your research!  Talk to your trusted coaches and get the truth!  Is my kid college ball material??  Play with them as much as you can when they are young and take the time to talk to them about what they like and don't like and where they want to go with sports.  Be honest, have compassion, but above all, truly hear your kids out and support them with their interests.  There are a lot of sports clubs and training groups out there that see this only for the money.  So watch out! 

More literature is on the way.  Let's stay tuned and educated and rework our priorities within the household. Thanks Joe.  Really looking forward to more of these stories. 

***See also...