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Morgan Vest

4-1-17

English 102

Professor Padgett

Youth Sports: Problems and Solutions to Americas Youth Sports Crisis

I want you to close your eyes and think back to your early childhood memories.

What are they? For me theyre filled with days on the football fields with my best buds,

on the baseball diamond, or in the basketball gym, and I imagine your memories may be

fairly similar. After all, over 36 million kids (ages 8-18) participate in youth sports every

year. A childs experiences in youth sports, positive or negative, greatly influence their

future and will carry with them for the rest of their lives. So whats the problem?

Unfortunately youth sports are no longer providing valuable life lessons to children

through a fun, supportive and active environment in sports. But that just isnt the case

anymore. Youth sports have strayed from its positive core values and into a negative

light, making our youth the victims. I argue for the change of youth sports in the values it

teaches, who is allowed to teach them, the importance of youth sports, and to provide

kids who participate the best environment to thrive in for their future. The chart below

(Figure Two) shows the top five reasons why kids quit participating in youth sports. The

top four results are all problems that are fixable if we change the persona of todays youth

sports. If we dont we will continue down this struggling road until we come to a point

where its too late to turn around and fix it. We need to fix it now and show everyone just

how great youth sports are.


% why youth athletes quit playing sports

Not Having Fun


11% Focus on Grades
29% Injury
15%
Didn't like the Coach
Wasn't Good enough
21%
23%

Youth sports should always be a positive light for young kids. If its not fun then

its being taught correctly. Youth sports are able to provide a healthy context for positive

youth development. Young people report that they are more highly motivated and

engaged in sports than in many other contexts, (Larson & Kleiber, 1993; Weiss, 2008),

and these conditions often create rich environments for personal and interpersonal

development (Larson, 2000). Done correctly, sports are one of the best ways to help

todays youth learn and be apart of one of these rich environments but it is up to us to

create the right environments for our youth to grow.

The most common benefits of youth sports are physical benefits. Participating in

many sports maximizes physical development among young people, growing bodies are

predisposed to non-specialized physical activities; therefore, physical development and

success in sports are enhanced by playing in multiple sports. Along with physical benefits

sports are also a way to develop psychological benefits. Research indicates that

participating in youth sport offers a unique variety of psychological and effective benefits

of creating both a stronger mind and a stronger body. When a positive environment is
created, children can receive psychological and emotional benefits. An example as such is

an instance in sports where stressful, intense situations are created or a high level of

performance is required which provides context where young kids experience strong

emotions like anger or anxiety and therefore youths report gaining insight into how to

manage these emotions (Hansen, Larson, & Dworkin, 2003; Light, 2010).

Some of the most common, yet most forgotten, benefits of youth sports are social

and intellectual benefits. Involvement in sport activities has been related to better

cognitive functioning in children and greater outcomes academically, including higher

grades, test scores, engagement/satisfaction with school, aspirations for attending college,

as well as lower dropout rates (Fredricks & Eccles, 2005). The social benefits that come

with participating in youth sport depend on how youth sports are organized and the kind

of relationships that are created. When playing a sport expands a youths experiences and

relationships, social benefits increase. When young youth are limited to new experiences

and relationships, social benefits decrease. The steady trend of an increase in the number

of youth sport participants over the past half century would support this realization that

youth sports does offer one of the best learning environments for youth kids. (Figure One

Below)
9,000,000

8,000,000

7,000,000

6,000,000

5,000,000 1971-72
4,000,000 2014-15

3,000,000

2,000,000

1,000,000

The chart shows how many more peoples attitudes have changed so that they value that

sports are becoming more and more prevalent in our lives and should be used as a way to

help teach and provide experiences to have a more successful future. Even though there

are many positive benefits that come with playing youth sports, there are negative

outcomes that we must consider as well.

One of the first setbacks that can be encountered when participating in youth

sports is one that can happen before you even step foot onto the field. And that set back is

money. The price to play youth sports has risen substantially over the past decade or so,

hindering the lower economic families from allowing their children to play in youth

sports. Which in turn is what precisely leads to children who come from lower income

households struggling with social interaction with others, dealing with strong emotions,

teamwork, and problem solving; all traits that can be learned at a young age through

sports. I am not saying that all children who come from lower income families struggle

with these things thats certainly not the case, but according to Patti Neighmond in

Benefits Of Sports To A Childs Mind And Heart All Part Of The Game, there is strong
correlation in lower income families not participating in sports and undeveloped social

traits than families that do participate (Neighmond). All families, all kids should have

the chance to experience youth sports no matter what race or economic status they are in.

So if we continue to keep families away from letting their kids experience and learn these

traits that will help them for the future, then what good are we really doing?

Another backlash that can affect kids in a negative way is what Gareth Jowett

calls Perfectionism Burnout. As youth sports continues to get more and more

competitive (which causes participation in youth leagues to become more expensive as

well) kids are forced at a young age to dedicate more of themselves and more of their

time to becoming perfect at their sport and excel above others. Leading to

psychological and physical demands that can prove too great, fostering an experience

laden with self-doubt and frustration that places them on a path to extreme disaffection

(Jowett). There is no way to completely get rid of competition in sports, which I am not

arguing for, competition is good but what should be focused on in youth sports is what is

gained from competition, both in losing and in winning. If we do not choose to focus on

the core values of youth sports, which can involve a high level of competition to some

degree, and only focus on being perfect then this disaffection will continue.

Lastly, the biggest negative by far with participating in youth sports is the risk of

injury. Every year millions of kids are seen by doctors and physicians for sports related

injuries, from bruises to cuts, broken bones and pulled muscles the list goes on. Countless

doctor visits and hospital bills add up and are yet another factor in just how much it cost

to play youth sports. But the biggest injury over the past decade has been concussion. Its

reported that close to 100,000 youth sport participates experience one concussion
annually, and thats just in the sport of football. Concussions not only have immediate

effects on a person but also have been linked to long lasting effects as well. Short-term

symptoms can included loss of memory, dizziness, motor skills and more, but eventually

these subside after seven to ten days of rest. Long-term effects of concussions can be

even more severe than short term. Illness such as post traumatic stress disorder,

depression, moodiness, and even cases where patients were unable to control their

emotions. In the most severe cases, patients who experienced multiple concussions in a

short period of time were linked to suicidal thoughts and actions. Young children are also

at a higher risk to get a concussion than adults. So with both major consequences and

major benefits that can derive from youth sports its imperative we find a way to limit the

consequences and maximize the benefits. And it all starts with the people we trust our

kids with when they step out on the field. The Coaches.

Coaches are the backbone of youth sports. Theyre the ones who we trust our

youth with and who also have the greatest influence on them as well. To put that into

perspective, the highest paid public employee in 39 US states is either a head football

coach or the head coach for a mens basketball team. So we can all agree that youth

sports plays a significant role in our society, but Robert Simon in The Ethics of Coaching

Sports: Moral, Social, and Legal Issues, argues that the degree of significance, whether

positive or negative, is greatly influenced and dependent on the coaches. Therefore the

coaches should be aware of the influence they have on such a young group of kids lives

and understand how to approach coaching so that the best results for these kids futures

and start to grow. In America we as a society value sports and what they can offerwe

realize the potential for sports to build character and promote necessary virtues for a
greater cause (Simon 2). Sports are entertaining to watch but offer the potential for much

more important lessons in life. Lessons that properly taught apply directly to life

(Simon). The key words there are properly taught. This includes fairness and equal

treatment of all players of course but its much more than that. Its proper techniques so

that players are safer when out on the field, its teaching the lessons in both winning and

losing, its more than just a game and that how it should be approached. Coaches need to

know how to properly teach their kids these lessons and provide examples for what they

will experience in life. Although I believe that winning is a lesson that every youth sport

participant should learn, a coach that focuses on just winning will not be teaching his/her

kids the proper lessons that coach who focuses on how to win will. Learning what it takes

to win, the sacrifices, the hard work, the tough times that must be put in to win will

produce a kid that has a far greater chance of being successful than one that knows what

its like to win, but doesnt know what it takes. On the flip side, learning how to deal with

a loss and learning to work through adversity is just as if not more important for a young

kid to learn. Because more times in life you will be knocked down than standing straight

up, so coaches being able to teach a kid to pick themselves up is crucial to having success

in life.

Coaches not only must teach these lessons but live them out as well, coaches

must be good teachers as well as good role models (Simon). The best teacher and

leaders lead by example and that is exactly what a coach must do. Many of lifes lessons

are taught by your mom and dad but mixing in sports, and a great coach, those lessons are

easier to expose to the youth and help make the lessons stick a little bit better.
It is not only the coaches job to change how they approach youth sports, but ours

as a society as well. Changing the future of youth sports for the better needs a

collaborative effort between parents, teachers, health professionals, community leaders,

and politicians. As a society, we need to change the philosophy of youth sport from a

negative environment to a positive one in which most children can thrive, benefit from

sports, and keep their participation in them. Organized sports needs to be available to all

youth, regardless of gender, neighborhood or economic status. Youth sports should

emphasize fun, while maximizing physical, psychological, and social development for its

participants. The guidelines that establish the framework for youth sports should be

implemented based on scientific knowledge. Establishing some type of education

regarding positive coaching skills, general physical training, injury reduction, and first

aid should be encouraged. At the same time, State and federal legislation can assist in

improving safety in sport for young athletes by providing an appropriate framework for

participation in youth sports (Safe Kids USA Sports). Programs that teach and model

improved moral character while also providing safe physical activity are necessary for the

development of youth kids.

Youth sports and recreation should be a fundamental part of kids lives, despite

troubling signs in the youth sports culture. Sports provide a domain for developing

friendships, physical activity, and learning developmental skills across all platforms. The

multiple health benefits for children of all ages who participate in youth sport activities

are well documented. Organized youth sports, when focused on fundamentals, promote

physical activity while providing enjoyment for young athletes. Reducing sports attrition

is necessary for sustaining sports participation and ease physical activity into adulthood.
The challenges we recognize as a society in changing the youth sport culture are

significant and complex. But providing emphasis on having fun while establishing a

balance between physical fitness, psychological well being and teaching lifelong lesson

are paramount for a healthy successful future.


Works Cited

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"Benefits Of Sports To A Child's Mind And Heart All Part Of The Game." NPR. NPR,
n.d. Web. 06 Feb. 2017.

Drape, Joe. "In Youth Sports, a Bigger Picture." New York Times, vol. 160, no. 55413, 22
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Hedstrom R, Gould D. Research in Youth Sports: Critical Issues Status, White Paper
Summaries of the Existing Literature East Lansing, MI: Institute for the Study of Youth
Sports, Michigan State University; 2004

Larson, R., & Kleiber, D. A. (1993).Daily experience of adolescents. In P.Tolan & B.


Cohler (Eds.), Handbook of clinical research and practice with adolescents (pp. 125
145). New York, NY: Wiley.

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Recreation & Dance, vol. 84, no. 7, Sept. 2013, pp. 8-13. EBSCOhost,
doi:10.1080/07303084.2013.820112.

Merkel, Donna L. "Youth sport: positive and negative impact on young athletes." Open
Access Journal of Sports Medicine. Dove Medical Press, 2013. Web. 06 Feb. 2017.

Simon, Robert, and Simon Jenkins. "The Ethics of Coaching Sports: Moral, Social, and
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