Too serious about sports

Children are being pushed to specialize in a single sport, writes teacher Patrick Welsh in USA Today. The pressure may start in elementary school.

Take the situation with youth basketball. Fifth- and sixth-grade kids playing in recreation leagues are being scouted by Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) coaches with connections to sneaker companies.

Coaches from prestigious private schools have their street-dude surrogates hanging around recreation centers using sneakers and promises of scholarships to entice the best players. Once kids are in the clutches of these coaches, they are encouraged to play in year-round leagues.

. . . Now kids are made to feel like second-class underachievers unless they make a city’s “traveling” or All-Star team. Some kids even refuse to play on their high school teams because they say that their club teams are more competitive and that their club coaches have better contacts with college recruiters.

Via Donald Sensing, father of athletes. I’m the mother of the only child in Palo Alto who never played soccer. She said she’d heard it involved running. I’d heard it involved parents waking up early on Saturday morning.

About Joanne


  1. I wish I’d had the wherewithal to pursue target shooting with my son. We had no convenient access to a shooting club in Chicago, nor money for “equipment and supplies”. In his first exposure to riflery, in the Boy Scouts, he shot the best group the rangemaster had seen from anyone but ex-military Scoutmasters. Maybe he’d have been a natural for Olympic competition.

  2. Triticale, it’s not “too late”–a lot of the gun sports competitors are over 20.

    Paul Lomartire has written an excellent article on parents who dream of sports scholarships for their kids, so spend thousands to boost the kids’ skills.

    Where there are elite training centers–you might say weight rooms with gloss–you will find kids hoping for that edge. There’s not a “need” for that kind of training, but parents will demand it. And the high school coaches push kids to specialize in just one sport.

  3. And the problem is?

    Are the high schools losing control over the sports students play?

    Are high school coaches losing control over the college selection process?

    My son plays has specialized in soccer. Is he to be penalized for his specialization because someone wants to play multiple sports?

    High schools should be concentrating on student achievement as refected in grades, not on how to maintain their market share of high school age athletes.

  4. If the parents PUSH the kids into sports, or into a single sport, then it’s wrong. If it’s the kid’s choice, and it’s a reasonable one, then I think it’s okay.

  5. greeneyeshade says:

    i’ve never forgotten the words of a high school wrestling coach i talked to when i was the sports dept. of a small-town paper 30 yrs. ago. youth basketball and wrestling were big in our county, but this guy said he wouldn’t encourage youth wrestling in his district because when kids went thru youth programs, by the time they were old enough to wrestle for him, they’d burned out.
    i’m afraid mr. welsh is right about the decline of the 3-sport star. my going-on-13-yr.-old played basketball and lacrosse in 6th grade last year and looks to be adding soccer this year. her idea, not mine, but i’ll be cheering her on.


  1. Vicarious Success: Kids Pushed in Sport

    I told you about Paul Lomartire’s excellent article on parents who dream of sports scholarships for their kids, so spend thousands to boost the kids’ skills. Now Patrick Welsh, a high school teacher, has published an article in USA Today