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Sports and Kids - Are We Pushing too Hard?

Updated on April 13, 2017
SherrieWeynand profile image

Sherrie is a single mom to a teenage daughter. Juggling a freelance writing career with parenthood, cats and two puppies.

Sports - An American pastime for some, a dream for others.
Sports - An American pastime for some, a dream for others.
Kids sports - an American tradition.
Kids sports - an American tradition. | Source

Sports - An American Pastime

From Steph Curry's 42 points and 11 assists securing the Golden State Warriors best record in the NBA to Madison Bumgarner's MLB world record breaking 2 homeruns on opening day, by a pitcher, it is clear that a big portion of America is comprised of sports fans.

Americans love sports, that is common knowledge. But why?

There are many reasons. Some people will tell you it is an emotional release, an opportunity to submerge themselves in something outside of their daily lives, or a way to vicariously enjoy the competitiveness of the players. Others say it brings out team spirit, promoting camaraderie. Yet others will say it is their need for victory because they can't stand to lose.

Yes, our devotion to whatever teams, be it baseball, football, basketball, hockey, or even those crazy NASCAR fans, is strong. Although, at times, it could almost be described as rabid. I'm looking at you Packers and Raiders fans.

Sometimes, that level of devotion is passed on to our kids. One day, they could be the next superstar of professional sports. With our focus on team sports, we enroll our kids at young ages, set our schedules around practices and games. Many times kids are involved in multiple sports, parents want the best for their kids, and to try to help them find their sports niche or discover which sport they excel in. Looking at the number of kids in sports today, we are faced with the question, are we pushing them too hard?


Youth soccer league
Youth soccer league | Source

Too Young, Too Hard

With pressure from parents and coaches to win, training schedules that resemble a professional's schedule, injuries that cause long-term damage and pain, we should not be surprised at the burnout rate of kids involved in sports. What is shocking - that burnout rate is referring to athletes as young as 9 or 10 years old.

Wanting to nurture and raise the next star NFL player, or the next NBA star, parents enroll youngsters in competitive sports at around 5 years of age. As the years roll by, intense training spreads into the sport's off-season, and now suddenly they are practicing and training all year. This forces a kid to give up other interests, lose out on friendships outside of the league, and even lose downtime which lets them relax and be a kid.

Stakes grow higher because parents play to win. Yes, of course, winning is the ultimate goal of any sport. Parents and often times, coaches, take that to another level. Winning leads to recognition, which has possibilities which have proven to be lucrative. It's a chain of events that many sports parents seek for their child. We've all heard it said whether in person or by someone in the online world, "Johnny is going to be the next big football star," or "Lisa is going to be the next soccer pro." It starts with high school championships moving on to college scholarships, and if you are an excellent player in your sport, just maybe, a shot at going pro. But is that a realistic expectation as a parent? There are parents who do push too hard. There are parents who push and convince their child that professional sports are the only way to go.

Young kids involved in sports is a healthy form of exercise.
Young kids involved in sports is a healthy form of exercise. | Source

Youth Sports Positive Impact on Kids

There are many benefits of a child's participation in sports. Two of which are physical and social growth and development. Participation in sports promotes physical activity. That fact alone would be a worthy reason to encourage kids to take part in an organized sport.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that in 2013 only 27.1 percent of high school students participated in 60 minutes per day of physical activity on the seven days before being surveyed, and only 29 percent attended P.E. class daily.1

Research has proven that children who are obese stand a greater chance of adult obesity,2 and nearly one-third of all children born after 2000 will be affected by diabetes sometime during their lives.3 Organized team sports helps break the inactive and unhealthy lifestyle cycle. Burning calories, less time watching television or playing video games is always a good thing.

Youth sports also help facilitate the development of gross motor skills. Acquiring motor skills while young increases the chances of the child participating in that activity during adulthood.

Outside of physical health, kids who participate in sports are more likely to avoid other high-risk behaviors. A University of South Carolina study investigated kids relationships between sports participation and certain behaviors in US teens. Both males and females active in organized team sports were likely to eat fruits and vegetables while being less likely to smoke or use drugs.4 Binge drinking did not change between genders of athletes or nonathletes. Suicidal thoughts have seen a reduction in both boys and girls who are active in sports.5


With a good coach, a child is less likely to burnout on sports.
With a good coach, a child is less likely to burnout on sports. | Source

Youth Sports Negative Impact on Kids

One of the first things that come to mind when we think about negative aspects for kids involved in sports is injuries. Young athletes are susceptible to a myriad of often times traumatic, as well as overuse injuries. With kids participating more frequently in team sports, we see a higher number of emergency room trips due to sports related injuries in patients aged 5-24.6 Kids and teens have an increased chance of bone fractures, as well as in the growth plates. According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, around 30 million youths take part in organized sports, and more than 3.5 million are treated for sports-related injuries per year.7

Over the last twenty years, we have seen an incline in youths focusing more attention on one sport. As stated earlier in this article, this leads to year-round participation. Burnout and peer isolation become a concern. In addition to specializing in one sport impacting the child, the financial impact on families can be tremendous.

Families have given up a lot for their young athletes. Depleting savings and forgoing vacations are quite common when supporting your child's sports activities. Even participating on a basic level can be costly to some families. You have league fees, uniform costs, travel expenses, equipment, and numerous other issues that arise. A decrease in funding for after-school programs has limited access to sports participation in lower socioeconomic cities and neighborhoods. There has been a recent upswing in nonprofits in inner cities providing opportunities for children in need. Most children who participate in an organized sport are from suburban, mostly Caucasian neighborhoods. We must find a way to make sports available to all kids who wish to play.

Another negative factor in youth sports is a lack of family time. At some points, kids spend more time with their coaches than they do with family. Kids have complained about burning out due to coaches who have shown overt favoritism, excessive pressure to win, and poor coaching skills, all of which reduced the fun of playing.

A balanced family life, time with friends, and sports participation makes for a more productive team player.

2015-2016 High School Sports-Related Injuries

SPORT
# INJURIES
# EXPOSURES
INJURY RATE per 1000
Boys' Football
3,428
829,506
4.13
Boys' Soccer
539
273,811
1.97
Girls' Soccer
637
242,727
2.62
Girls' Volleyball
288
246,240
1.17
Boys' Basketball
546
342,002
1.60
Girls' Basketball
563
254,742
2.21
Boys' Wrestling
589
241,675
2.44
Boys' Baseball
221
258,797
0.85
Girls' Softball
251
195,189
1.29
Cheerleading
193
282,530
0.68
UC Denver Research - 46-week study, 1,500 high schools. Sports-related injury rates.
Sports build friendships, trust, & teamwork.
Sports build friendships, trust, & teamwork.

Misbehaving Parents

Like coaches, parents create stress for young athletes. We can set our child up to fail by setting unobtainable goals in regards to both their performance and winning, by making them participate in sports they are not ready for or have no interest in. When a child does not perform to his or her parent's expectations, often times they will lose confidence and search out other ways to have fun.

Parents who behave inappropriately are often encountered by high school coaches It is witnessed quite frequently in our sports culture.

Bad Sports Parent

But, My Kid is a Star

Listen, I know my daughter, Trystan, is a star. Your son, Jeremy, he's a star, and Timmy, from the next town over, he's a mega-star. But let's talk about a sports reality that is a hard pill to swallow. Most high school and college students will never play professional sports. No matter how hard we push them, no matter how good they are. Let's break it down by the numbers.

Baseball

  • MLB 2016 draft - They had 1,206 draft picks, of which, 695 came from NCAA schools.9 595 were Division I, 80 from Division II, and 20 were Division III.
  • Not all who are drafted play professional baseball and many do not make the Major League.

The table below shows the other sports and their respective numbers.

NCAA Draft Picks to Pro Sports

Sport
NCAA Participants
Approx. # Draft Eligible
# Draft Picks
# NCAA Drafted
% NCAA to Major Pro
Baseball
34,554
7,679
1,206
695
9.1
M Basketball
18,684
4,152
60
44
1.1
W Basketball
16,593
3,687
36
35
0.9
Football
73,660
16,369
253
251
1.5
M Ice Hockey
4,102
912
211
51
5.6
M Soccer
24,803
5,512
81
75
1.4
2016 NCAA Draft Numbers NCAA to Professional Sports
Kids and sports, American as apple pie.
Kids and sports, American as apple pie. | Source

To Sport or Not To Sport

Weighing the good, the bad, and locating the median between the two, sports are good for our kids when we mete it out with common sense. Parents that attempt to live their failed sports dreams vicariously through their children will do nothing more than alienate their child from said sport, or worse, cause resentment between the parent and child.

Injuries happen, but, they happen every day. It could happen at home, at school, or at work, as easily as it can happen on the court or field. With the correct safety measures, training and practice, kids around the country (and the globe) can continue to participate in the sports they love. Holding our kids back and preventing them from growing and learning, is just as traumatic in the end, as playing a game and ending up with an injury. We don't want them hurt at all, far from it, but we don't want to hover constantly either. There is a fine line there that we as parents need to discover and play as close to it as is possible.

As for professional sports, you know what, it is great to have dreams, goals, and aspirations. Reach for them, teach your kids to reach for them, but don't teach them that it is the ultimate importance in their world. Teach them that even if they can make the pros, an education is important. Every pro player in every pro sport is one major injury away from not playing anymore. Each of them has the very real chance of being cut, or not picked up. That education would benefit them. They would have other skills in this world besides being an athlete. Show them that you are proud of them for all of their accomplishments, and when they don't do as well as they wanted to. You're still proud of them. There is nothing more important to a child than to know they have made their parents proud. While many might not vocalize that as a child or teen, in later years they will acknowledge it, they will embrace that and carry it with them throughout life. Their time as an athlete might be fleeting, but there's always that small chance that you produced the next Michael Jordan, the next Wayne Gretzky, the next Babe Ruth. Whatever they become, they'll need your support.

References

  1. Centers for Disease Control | Physical Activity Facts | Accessed April 6, 2017, found here: https://www.cdc.gov/healthyschools/physicalactivity/facts.htm
  2. Journal of Clinical Research | Obesity in Children | found here: www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3005642
  3. WebMD - Diabetes - One in Three Kids Will Develop Diabetes, found here: www.webmd.com/diabetes/news/20030616/one-in-three-kids-will-develop-diabetes#1
  4. University of South Carolina Department of Exercise Science, Pate, RR, et al, found here: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10980794
  5. Journal School of Health - High School Youth and Suicide Risk - Taliaferro LA, et al, found here: https://www.ncbi.nlm.gov/pubmed/18808474
  6. Adirim TA1 Cheng TL - Overview of injuries in the young athlete - found here: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12477379
  7. Johns Hopkins Medicine - Sports Injury Statistics - found here: www.hopkinsmedicine.org/healthlibrary/conditions/sports_injury_statistics_90,p02787/
  8. Breunner CC - Avoidance of burnout in the young athlete (PDF) found here: http://m3.wyanokecdn.com/323aa3517529315a4996ceaceaa9a1e7.pdf
  9. MLB Draft Tracker 2016 found here:

    http://m.mlb.com/draft/tracker/

© 2017 Sherrie Weynand

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    • Debangee Mandal profile image

      DEBANGEE MANDAL 4 months ago from India

      Informative and sporting . Thanks for sharing.

    • Debangee Mandal profile image

      DEBANGEE MANDAL 5 months ago from India

      Wonderful piece. Parents are nowadays expecting too much from their kids. Good topic to be shared and discussed. Very informative ! Well written.

    • Ashish Dadgaa profile image

      Ashish Dadgaa 5 months ago

      @Sherrie,

      Wow, Sherrie. Excellent piece of work. I really loved the way you have drafted this hub. I would say yes we are pushing too hard to our kids. If anyone asks why? I would say because of a peer competition.

      Wonderful work.