Sports for Children: Are organized programs worth the effort?
“Enrolling your kids in various activities may “sound crazy” when put into a list, but it’s about providing “a taste” of “the variety of the amazing opportunities that are out there.” (Levs, 2017) (“Whatever happened to ‘go outside and play’?”, 2018) With an increasing number of families with both parents working comes a rising demand for organized youth activities. The value of competitive sports has increased; parents don’t have to worry about the safety or the whereabouts of their children anymore. The measure of good parents in the 21st century is if they can recall where their child is and what is he/she doing. However, organized activities are not as beneficial as they seem to be. Research shows that organized youth activities are more dangerous than favorable in the following areas: specialized vs. participating in multiple events and their advantages and disadvantages on youth, finances related to youth sports, and possible injuries occurring while participating in youth organized sports.
First, the question of whether children should participate in a specific sport or try out multiple sports has a lot more to do with organized sports as one may think. A survey conducted on 3090 high schools, collegiate, and professional athletes showed some controversy over the single sports participation in the US. Table 3 of the study shows, that overall, about 80% of high school students thought to focus on an only sport will open more doors for future involvement than trying out different games at the same time. In the same category, collegiate athletes responded with about 81% and professional athletes with about 62%. On the contrary, no more than 30% of high school athletes would want their children to specialize in a single sport during their childhood. In the same category, collegiate athletes voted about 27% and professional athletes with about 23%. (Buckley, 2017) Table 4 of the same study shows that at the college level, athletes participating in an individual sport more likely started focusing on a particular event at an earlier stage. Participants in a team sport have more likely played more than a single game while growing up. (Buckley, 2017) In conclusion, more athletes are thrilled they participated in a specialized event; however, almost no one would recommend their child to do the same. One may conclude, participants are happy they focused on a specific activity, but they don’t want their children to do the same, which suggest they either wish they changed things or they did not think it was effective in the long run. Another false thought is that colleges are looking for athletes with a specific sport. However, it is an enormous advantage to play multiple sports at a high school level. Those athletes tend to have better physical abilities, they have better leadership skills and overall, they are better teammates. On the contrary, athletes who only participate in a single sport have a higher burnout rate because by the time the sport becomes their profession, they will not have any motivation or passion for the event. (Matz, 2014)
Another important factor that comes with organized youth sports is finances. One of the main issues is that when low-income families don’t have the resources to fund the participation of their children, they tend to call “bad parents.” Because of that, organized sport for youth raise a vital question of the worth of low-income families. (Coakley, 2017, pg. 83) Sports in Society also mentions that as more organizations become privately funded, fewer are publicly funded like parks and recreational regions. (Coakley, 2017, pg. 83) Organized youth sports ignore the potential of the most talented athletes. For example, US soccer has many more scholarships and funding available for boys than girls. Because the NCAA works the same way, parents are those who have to pay for everything. Some clubs might waive the costs or give out tuition, but it is the best they can do. (Farrey, 2012) Some parents take sports more seriously as the education of their children. In Canada parents prioritize the athletic career of their children over their education; they even use retirement savings to fund the expenses of the activities children participate in. (Bean, 2014, pg. 14-15)
The most severe topic that parents have to consider when enrolling their children in organized youth activities is injuries. Hyman spent his time researching injuries in youth sports. In his book Until It Hurts he stated that adults have created a hostile environment of youth activities. About 3.5 million kids ages under 15 required medical treatments; about half of them occurred because of overtraining. The dream of creating superstar professional athletes often comes from adults putting pressure of the children (Hyman, 2009) He thought while organized activities are the primary reason injuries occurred, the first step towards the injuries starts with pressuring parents and coaches. In his article Why Kids Under 14 Should Not Play Tackle Football, he shared a story about a football game where five players suffered head injuries, and although the opposing team had an enormous lead, neither coach stopped the game. (Hyman, 2012)
Parents are vested in their children so much; they even take out insurance. Harward orthopedist Lyle Micheli said since she founded her clinic, she sees about 30 athletes weekly. The parents of the athletes pay roughly about $250 per session. A session last for about two and half hours, which shows a growing concern of injuries in youth. (Matz, 2014)
In summary, organized youth programs are a growing concern for many reasons; they focus on a specific event instead of having children try out different sports, they are costly, and they create a hostile environment. While specializing in a particular game has many advantages, it takes away the problem solving and freedom of the youth. Many organizations become privately funded instead of publicly funded, which means the cost of participation is on the parents. This change raises an issue when children come from a low-income family. Organized youth sports could also create a hostile environment when parents and coaches see so much potential in a given athlete that they start applying constant pressure on them.
Overall, organized sports for children are not all bad; however, there is a need for change to make them more enjoyable. Organizations need to create an environment when everyone gets an equal time of play, provide more action with fewer rules and more freedom for children. Organized sports could be very successful if parents put their children’s needs first instead of looking at the big picture. Athletes need to peek at an adult phase, not when they are, well, still children. If organizations stop focusing on the “travel team” and provide equal opportunities for everyone, more athletes will play at a higher level, and more children will grow up without fewer health issues.
Bean, C. N., Fortier, M., Post, C., ; Chima, K. (2014). Understanding How Organized Youth Sport May Be Harming Individual Players within the Family Unit: A Literature Review. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 11(10), 10226–10268. http://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph111010226
Buckley, P. S., Bishop, M., Kane, P., Ciccotti, M. C., Selverian, S., Exume, D., … Ciccotti, M. G. (2017). Early Single-Sport Specialization: A Survey of 3090 High School, Collegiate, and Professional Athletes. Orthopaedic Journal of Sports Medicine, 5(7), 2325967117703944. http://doi.org/10.1177/2325967117703944
Coakley, J. J. (2017). Sports in society: Issues and controversies(12th ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill Education.
Farrey, T. (2012, June 6). Too high a price to play. Retrieved July 6, 2018, from http://www.espn.com/espnw/title-ix/article/7986414/too-high-price-play
Hyman, M. (2009). Until It Hurts. Retrieved July 6, 2018, from http://www.beacon.org/Until-It-Hurts-P641.aspx
Hyman, M. (2012, November 06). Why Kids Under 14 Should Not Play Tackle Football. Retrieved July 6, 2018, from http://ideas.time.com/2012/11/06/why-kids-under-14-should-not-play-tackle-football/
Levs, J. (2017, October 02). Whatever happened to ‘go outside and play’? Retrieved July 6, 2018, from https://www.cnn.com/2013/03/22/living/let-children-play-outside/index.html
Matz, E. (2014, February 21). The kids are alright. Retrieved July 6, 2018, from http://www.espn.com/espn/story/_/id/10496416/are-youth-sports-ruining-kids-childhoods-espn-magazineWhatever happened to ‘go outside and play’? (2018, February 28). Retrieved July 6, 2018, from https://www.drinkrethinkwater.com/articles/2018/2/28/whatever-happened-to-go-outside-and-play