Youth sports can be one of the best things for a child’s athletic, social, and psychological development when coached properly. However, I am concerned about some of the things I see happening in youth sports today. In particular, I am concerned with the nature of club sports. I don’t really know if the majority of them, regardless of sport, are really out there in the best interest of the kids.
Most of you know that I am a high school coach, so I am speaking strictly from my perspective. I see too many youth, club, and even high school coaches who don’t allow their athletes to be involved in other sports or activities. As a head girl’s basketball coach, I try to be as flexible as possible when our athletes are involved in other sports. I believe it’s good and important for our athletes to be involved in other sports and encourage them to participate in them. I think it’s beneficial to play multiple sports as it helps overall athleticism.
Every year millions of kids in our country are involved in youth sports, many of which participate in club sports. Did you know that close to 70% of these kids are burnt out and quit by the age of 14? Why is this happening? I believe one factor is that these sports are demanding too much from these kids. It’s go, go, go all the time and the kids never get a break.
In my opinion, I think too many coaches are selfish and really don’t have the kids’ best interest in mind. In talking with many coaches from different states such as Missouri, Illinois, Tennessee, and Iowa, it seems as though a big problem is athletes being discouraged from participating in other sports. Coaches are too focused on winning games, having players at every practice and game. Unfortunately I’ve heard of athletes playing time being threatened if they miss for another sport. Many times an athlete will finish a high school sport season and go immediately into a club season in that same sport. I am seeing and hearing more cases where the club coach will tell the athlete that they don’t want them playing another high school sport while involved with the club team. This occurs in baseball, softball, volleyball, soccer, and basketball. It’s all over.
Now, if a kid is true standout in that sport and has a great shot a Division One Scholarship, I get that it may be beneficial to focus on one sport all the time. But the truth is that very few high school athletes receive athletic scholarships. According to the NCAA only about 2% receive scholarships. Less than 1% of high school athletes go onto the professional level. So my question is why?
Why do coaches not want their athletes to participate in other sports? My opinion is selfishness. Too many coaches place winning on a pedestal and don’t look at the big picture. I may be a throwback but I believe the athletes who are able to play multiple sports are usually the better ones. Here are some famous professional athletes who stood out in other sports while in high school, some even collegiately and professionally: Michael Jordan, Lebron James, Bo Jackson, Matt Holiday, Deion Sanders, and Steve Nash.
Another problem is that in club sports the kids play too many games and don’t practice enough. The ratio here in the U.S. is out of whack. Our kids play more games than they practice. How does that help fundamental skill? The ratio should be equal. I had a high school coach tell me his basketball team played over 40 games this summer. Some club teams play over 50 games in a summer. That’s too much. You should always have more practices than games played. How are players truly getting better if all they do is play games? We played 16 games and had 20 open gyms this summer. Playing too many games also leads to sport specific injuries, but this is another topic for another day.
I think it’s good for kids to participate in club sports, but I do not think they should be limited to one sport year round. I believe it’s a benefit for a kid to be well-rounded and involved in multiple sports. Remember, less than 1% go on to the professional level. We need a call to action. We should not have a close to 70% burn out rate for kids by the age of 14. Club and high school coaches, share your athletes. Encourage them to participate in other sports. We need more communication and understanding amongst coaches, players, and parents.
Bottom line: Are we really looking out for our kid’s best interest? Right now, I don’t think we are.
I know this will bring a variety of views and opinions. I’d love to hear your thoughts, especially from coaches and athletes.
As always, thanks for reading, have a great week, and be an RGP today!