Issues within Youth Athletics
“Jimmy get ready, we have four games to play this afternoon!”
“But dad, I just….”
“What did I say, Jimmy?! The team needs you. I need you. How bad do you think it would look if your own dad is coaching the team and you are home racing bikes with friends? Come on, don’t let me down!”
Yet again, another forceful parent pushing their kid to do something to fulfill their own ego. More than ever we are dealing with a growing number of athletes opting out of sports because of the intense pressure put on them by their parents and the fully stacked weekend schedules, as if they are competing for the Olympics. When do we draw the line and let kids be kids? The motto of keeping them busy or keeping them tired is a thing of the past. Moreover, parents running teams as if they are preparing to compete against the 95-96 Chicago Bulls is rubbish.
It has become a fulltime job for kids
We all know the parents that have taken matters into their own hands to ensure that their little baller gets his/her scholarships. Often times, putting them on multiple travel teams that require expensive fees and nightly practices after their school practices. Is this really necessary? What happened to one practice an evening, finishing up homework at a decent time, and a little playtime? These days, eight year olds have two full-time jobs, sports, and school. Don’t get me wrong I think there are benefits to being part of travel teams:
1) If athletes are actually being coached instead of scrimmaging all practice.
2) If coaches are instilling in them life long lessons instead of making it about JUST winning.
3) If the local team has an incompetent coach that does not possess leadership or role model qualities.
4) If a local team is not available for that athlete to participate on. I don’t believe there is a need to travel long distances to develop at young ages.
It has become about parents instead of the athlete
Games have turned into parents trying to coach their son/daughter from the sidelines. It’s great to encourage and cheer on your young athlete, but, when it turns into coaching them from the sideline, it makes it very difficult for most athletes to be fully engaged in the game because they have two different voices they are tying to listen to – coach and parents.
In addition, games have become a bragging session about where a young athlete has traveled to compete or what travel team the parents want the son/daughter to compete on next year. “Oh did I just miss my son/daughter make their shot?” “Yes Mildred, you were busy bragging and showing me your eight year old’s highlight tape for college recruiters…” “Oh, did you ask your son/daughter about what they want to do?” The power of letting children make their own, healthy and reasonable, choices is real.
Who’s got biggest muscles?
The number of coaches and dads that have stepped up to the plate to manage a team of energized kids has increased. This is great; however, many coaches are tying to live vicariously through these young, developing athletes by “stacking” teams with all the talent and crushing every other team in the league. “ Hey Richard, you got a nice team there!” “ Yeah, its just like I do it in Madden.” We get it Richard, your ego has gotten so big that you have forgotten the whole point of a youth development league. We also get that you like to win. In that case, why don’t you join an adult league instead of using kids to pad your ego? Coaches, kids need to understand the fundamentals of the game and how important these are as they continue athletics. Winning may be fun now, but if a group of kids go through a season of their given sport without learning anything, becoming better people, or having a stronger understanding of the game then you have failed them and their parents big time. Congratulations on your all madden team, Richard…
Where’s the fun?
Some have put such an emphasis on winning that many children think they need to walk away with a win, every game and at all costs. By no means am I saying winning is bad, but, at developmental ages, if we teach children that the only way he or she is making improvement is by winning, then we have once again failed. Remember the “it’s all about having fun” speech before the games that reminded young athletes to, well, have fun? It has slowly changed into a pregame speech by an overly aggressive coach that tells the kids to kick the other teams butt. Hmmm, I question if this is the right thing to teach easily influenced individuals. This approach places a tremendous amount of pressure on the team to win the game for the coach.
Regardless if you are a coach or a parent, I think we can all agree that in many cases, sports have not given young athletes the ability to have fun. It has become how many points can be scored and how badly a team can be crushed because you know, the coach told the team to do so. Maybe it's time for many of us to take a new approach and empower young athletes and give them an outlet where they feel they can communicate and be a part of a larger support group. Screaming and yelling doesn’t do it and the video below shows a handful of situations where the coach is out of line.
Kendrique Coats is the owner of Coats Performance, which provides speed training in Bloomington- Normal, Illinois. Over the years, Coats has spent most of his coaching time on the high school level coaching boys and girls track and field as well as overseeing strength and conditioning programs, which included stops at Pontiac Township High School in Illinois and Bloomington-Normal, Illinois. Coats is also the former head track and field coach of Dallas International School in Dallas, Texas.