Youth sports: Are they helping or hurting our children?

   Sports and Youth girl with soccer ball Labor Day is the symbolic end of summer. School’s back in session tomorrow, but youth athletes started regular practices long before that. For weeks, every day I passed by the local high school I saw football drills, conditioning, and scrimmages.

    Is it working? Do youth sports today help – or hurt – our kids’ social, psychological, and physical development? I remember with fondness the organized sports I played as a kid. But the times have changed.

    “Sports and kids are out-of-control,” said a regular reader in an email sent to me. “My [teenaged] daughter, who has been playing soccer for 10 years, quit. Why? Because it’s not fun anymore, and at least in Club sports, the coaches/owners are more concerned about winning tournaments – for rankings – than what sports could be, and dare I say it, used to be: a place to grow, develop, learn self-discipline and how to work as a team, stay in shape and have fun! There was just no time for anything else, including other sports or creative interests, time with friends or family, or even time to adequately heal and rejuvenate.

    “Are we making a league of burnt-out, perpetually tired kids with parents vicariously reliving a failed sports career with fantasies of tuition-free college?”

    That’s a tough assessment – Do you agree or disagree? What’s your experience of youth sports?

    This week on we’ll explore the role of youth sports in American society. When do sports help kids? What makes a good coach? Have youth sports become too professionalized? What’s the proper role of parents – of mothers and of fathers?

    I’ll share some facts about values and youth sports, based on recent research. Please join the conversation and tell us what you think!

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