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Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Too much competition, too soon?

There will always be debate about when young kids who participate in youth sports should (if ever) start taking it “seriously”?

Like most people, I’ve been to hockey rinks and soccer fields where kids barely old enough to run, it seems are competing against one another, to see who wins and loses a game.

The focus seems to be on “winning”, not developing skills or just good old-fashioned enjoyment.

When I was a youngster, back in the late 1950s and early ‘60s, I lived in a very small town.  We had a lot of “pick-up” games.  My sports were baseball and hockey.  In winter, we would get together on weekends and grab a big snow shovel, clear off a patch on the river that wound its way through and around our small village—and play.

Same in the summer.  Whoever was available would get together, all ages, and play at our local ball diamond.  Everyone was welcome.  Younger kids got the slower pitches to hit.  Bigger kids faced a bit more of a challenge.

Of course, the world has changed and we are much more “organized” about the way we view and handle youth sports.  Some of that is good.  There is (usually) better coaching, more safety awareness, just generally more education around sport.

At the same time, we have lost some spontaneity, for sure, as kids are often pushed into highly competitive situations.  Many “burn out” quite young.

In short, because of parents, coaches, too many tournaments or just too much pressure, they quit.  They lose the natural love they once had for the sport.

While I don’t agree with all the views expressed in the following piece from a writer at ESPN, it’s a worthwhile read:

It never hurts to look in the mirror and see if our own values around youth sport need some re-adjusting…

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