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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

Youth sports are supposed to be fun


Sports should be fun for kids, writes Linda Flanagan. Instead, young athletes give up their childhood to compete for college scholarships and perhaps a shot at the pros, she writes in Take Back the Game: How Money and Mania are Ruining Kids’ Sports — And Why It Matters.


A Youth Sports Industrial Complex pushes single-sport specialization in elementary school, followed by costly club and travel sports programs, writes Jonathan V. Last. "It turns parents into ATMs for the businesses in this sector and Uber drivers for their progeny, because Madison must go to practice three nights a week and then, on Saturday, to the tournament that’s three hours away."


For middle-class parents, investing in a child's athletic "career" is like buying a lottery ticket, he writes. Recruited athletes are more likely to be admitted to selective colleges, Flanagan shows. But the cost to parents is very high, Last points out.

. . . putting Jimmy into an intensive travel baseball program at age 10 costs at least $5,000 a year. If you invested that money annually in a no-load mutual fund, then you’d have about $50,000 for college by the time Jimmy packed off to State U, whether or not he got a sports scholarship. (This is not financial advice.)

Flanagan urges parents to keep their children out of organized sports as long as they're willing to play in the yard or shoot baskets in the driveway. If they want to join a team and become a top athlete, "make it clear that the only reason for her to do the sport is that she wants to." Let kids quit. Their experiences won't have been "wasted."


"Another key precept from Flanagan," writes Last, is that "the family is more important than kids’ sports."


When she was in first grade, my daughter told me she didn't want to play soccer. She said it involved running and she didn't like to run. I realized it involved me getting up early on Saturday mornings, so I said, "OK."

14 comentarios


Invitado
06 feb 2023

We run into this with my kids. They're clumsy. One was bad enough to qualify for PT/OT, and the therapists said team sports would help. Well, after Grade 1 here, if you can't play at a high enough level, you don't EVER get to play in a game AND get ignored at practice. There's a "wonky kids league" an hour away, but... there are no Rec league sports anymore, really. If your kid doesn't have potential, they're out of luck, because they're holding the future travel team kids back. Luckily, BSA is a great home for clumsy, ADHD or ASD, boys AND girls, and all the hiking and merit badges and teamwork and whatnot does give similar benefits to the …

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08 feb 2023
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"I believe that little league requires every member of the team to bat during a game and to play an inning in the field. And until boys go through puberty, no one knows whether they are going to be good enough to be a star. "


This probably has a lot of local variation, but my son played 8 seasons of Little League and even in his last year the coaches were trying to get all the kids "reasonable" playing time. Reasonable being at least one at-bat per game and at least three innings (out of a six inning game) in the field.


I kept team statistics for a few years and pulling up the playing stats for my son's…


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06 feb 2023

There is also the issue that outside of football basketball, and a few other sports, most scholarships are partial. For the elective schools, the benefit of sports is a lower admission standards (thus, the Varsity Blues scandal) and not the scholarship. What parents also need to understand that being a college athelte and being admitted under a lower standard takes many majors off the table. The athletes does not have the times or energy for the hard majors.

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08 feb 2023
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"Varsity athletes actually graduates at a higher rate because they have mandatory study halls, have QA specialist monitoring their grades, and have counsellors funded by the athletic department pushing them into the easier majors. "


Even at the community college level, the kids on the baseball team have a coach staying on their case for academics, though no QA specialists. This is more than the non-athlete students have. It helps. Maybe a lot.


The (community college) counsellors my son interacted with (when on the baseball team) weren't pushing specific majors. They were excellent at helping the kids navigate though the course catalog and manage transferring to a 4-year college. Having a dedicated counsellor helps as does, again, a coach w…


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05 feb 2023

I wonder how many parents and kids Linda Flanagan and Jonathan V. Last know who are, in fact, participating on travel teams?


Because they get the odds correct -- as an investment the money spent is terrible -- but MY experience was that lots of folks were very upfront about any given kid's chances of even playing in college: low. Yes, there are folks out there making promises that a totally bogus, but there are also a lot of folks being very upfront with the kids and their parents.


What travel DOES help with (and only help ... no guarantees!) fairly reliably is (a) making the high school team, and (b) being a starter on that team if you do…


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06 feb 2023
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Remember, in many states, the varsity high school coaches are not teachers but other school employees or volunteers. The idea of the assistant football coach being a social studies teachers always seems to be a Texas thing. SD

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