Parents are NOT the Problem, They are the Solution. How to Fix Youth Sports.
Okay. I’ve had enough!
I am completely fed up with how Youth Sports Parents are being vilified in the media and being lumped, en masse, into one group of Crazy Sports Parents! Come on! Do you seriously think all of us – ugh…HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS of parents who have children playing competitive youth sports – are in this so our children will get a scholarship to college or so we can have bragging rights in the neighborhood?
If you read Washington Post article by Michael S. Rosenwald “Are Parents Ruining Youth Sports? Fewer Kids Play Amid Pressure” claiming “Youth sports is the new keeping up with the Joneses,” you would think so.
I am sick and tired of PARENTS being BLAMED for the fact that seventy percent of kids quit sports by age 13.
The VAST majority of us are NOT to blame for the decline in youth sports participation. The article insinuates that Youth Sports Parents put SO MUCH pressure on children that they don’t allow them to have fun and therefore, children quit playing sports.
PLEASE, give us some credit.
Parents are not the problem. We are the solution!
Non-Crazy Sports Parents Stand Up! Defend Yourselves!
NON-CRAZY SPORTS PARENTS UNITE!
If we are going to fix this we must define the REAL PROBLEMS in youth sports.
Instead of SCAPEGOATING THE PARENTS in the media, let’s instead establish what needs to be done to educate, support and empower all Youth Sports Parents so they better understand the importance of making the proper decisions for their children regarding playing environment and coaches.
I have two children who play youth sports.
My 14 year old daughter plays the highest level of youth soccer available and travels all over the country playing for her league. It is a financial commitment and a time commitment and she loves it.
My 12 year old son plays recreation level soccer for his school. They have a spring and a fall season with one practice a week and because his school is so small, they lose most of their games. He loves it.
Youth sports are a GREAT THING at my house.
We have found qualified coaches we trust and a developmentally appropriate level for our children to play based on their mentality, skill and athletic potential.
I can honestly say that in my years and years of being a sports parent I have never had a conversation like the one that was discussed in the Washington Post article in which “parents try to one-up each other.” I have never discussed my daughters’ sports participation and felt it defined me and my social classification compared to other parents. I have never heard a parent, as the article suggested we do, brag about a location a child has gone to participate in sport. I did not make the decision, as the article suggested, for my daughter to specialize in one sport – soccer – because it’s the path she must take to get a scholarship to college.
Do these conversations happen? Do parents say these things? Yes, CRAZY SPORTS PARENTS do.
I am not a Crazy Sports Parent. MOST OF US ARE NOT.
It’s time to move beyond the easy target of the handful (compared to the total number of sports parents) of Crazy Sports Parents and get to the root of the problem.
THE MAJORITY OF PARENTS are NOT the root of the problem.
LET’S STOP BLAMING THE PARENTS EN MASSE AND LET’S START FIXING THE PROBLEM.
Players are PLAYING AT THE WRONG LEVEL based on their mentality, skill and athletic potential.
We DON’T HAVE ENOUGH QUALIFIED COACHES to meet the demands of a more organized and advanced youth sports environment.
Clubs are not providing tiers of competition levels so players end up PLAYING AT THE WRONG LEVEL.
Many of our Recreation Level youth coaches are unqualified coaches and therefore players do not enjoy themselves and, over time, quit.
Some of the recreation level players have more potential than their teammates and are therefore playing at the wrong level so they get bored and, over time, quit instead of seeking out more talented training environments.
More talented training environments too often require too strong of a commitment, forcing kids to play at the wrong level based on their mentality, skill and athletic potential. There needs to be a viable middle ground available with QUALIFIED coaches with REASONABLE demands. In large sports clubs with multiple teams in each age group, this is often happening. In small sports clubs, or one-off sports teams, this is not often happening.
When a child progresses to a more talented training environment – they are often coached by unqualified coaches that are not properly managed, trained and educated by the clubs that pay them.
Often our talented training environment teams are short players for a complete team so they allow players without as much athletic potential onto the team, and therefore that player is playing at the wrong level and eventually quits.
Often our travel-level organizations are coached by trained and licensed, albeit unqualified coaches who create an environment that is stressful and frustrating, and players quit.
Do you see the two themes here?
- PLAYING AT THE WRONG LEVEL
- UNQUALIFIED COACHES
If children play for a competent and qualified coach in an environment that is developmentally appropriate based on their mentality, skill and athletic potential – children have fun, They Don’t Quit.
PLAYING AT THE WRONG LEVEL
Finding an appropriate training environment in which a child is playing at the right level is the responsibility of the parent.
The follow up article in the Washington Post by Petula Dvorak “Our 10 Year Old Decided to Give Ice Hockey a Try. What We Encountered was Dreadful” was equally, if not more so, vilifying towards Youth Sports Parents. Her experience is an absolutely perfect, real-life, example detailing the importance of parents finding the right level for their child.
While it is sad that it took the author an entire year of sending her child to an inappropriate training environment before she realized she could, and should, and must find an appropriate environment, it is equally disappointing that the education and support isn’t readily available to youth sports parents so they are empowered to find an appropriate environment for their child.
The level in which parents choose to have their child participate in sports is not just about their child’s skill level or athletic potential.
Mentality must also be evaluated when choosing a level for a child to play.
For my daughter, while she possessed much potential in terms of athleticism and speed – she didn’t have the necessary mentality to play at a high level until the age of 12. If she hadn’t developed this mentality – we never would have allowed her to play at the level she currently competes.
How do parents decide what level is appropriate for their child?
They need to evaluate the mentality, skill and athletic potential of their child.
One thing I know for sure: I was a NCAA All-American and Professional Player and Coach, I know for sure that it is extremely difficult to evaluate your own child’s skill and athletic potential when they are an above average player.
Parents need coaches they trust working to help them navigate the appropriate playing environments for their children.
This brings us to the second problem.
Youth Sports need more coaches we can trust.
There are many factors that determine if a coach is qualified, and therefore determine if parents can trust the coach. A coach who has a strong playing background or a handful of coaching licenses is not necessarily a qualified coach. Of course possessing knowledge of the game is essential – but more essential than that –youth coaches must have strong communication skills, emotional intelligence, perspective and character.
When a parent finds a coach who acknowledges and understands the level in which they are coaching and who is a good communicator, emotionally intelligent, has perspective on the role sports play in life and is of strong character – a parent has found a coach they can trust.
A perfect example: My son’s coach.
As I mentioned, my son plays for his school on a recreation level and they lose just about every game because their school is so small. Despite their win-loss record, they have fun all the time.
I loved the coaches’ team-talk before a recent game: “Guys, this team is better than you. They have some really experienced players on the team who also play travel soccer. The most important thing that I care about today is that none of you get frustrated with each other and blame your teammate when the other team scores….”
Awesome! He is a coach I trust. His knowledge of the game is appropriate for the level in which they compete and, more importantly than that, he possesses an exceptional amount of perspective and character.
WHAT HAPPENS TO PARENTS WHEN THEIR CHILDREN ARE PLAYING AT THE WRONG LEVEL OR HAVE AN UNQUALIFIED COACH?
They turn into a Stressed Sports Parent.
They DON’T turn into a Crazy Sports Parents. There is no helping a CRAZY SPORTS PARENTS. They are unbalanced regarding their perceptions of what is appropriate behavior and they are likely living through their child’s sports participation.
Let’s stop CONFUSING Crazy Sports Parents and Stressed Sports Parents.
Stressed Sports Parents can be helped. LET’S HELP THEM!
WHAT WILL HELP STRESSED SPORTS PARENTS?
We must give Youth Sports Parents the education and tools they need to gain important knowledge and perspective and make the right choice when identifying and evaluating playing environments that best suit their child.
We must help Youth Sports Parents define what a qualified coach is based on their child’s level of play and we must empower them in the efforts to demand this type of coach.
When we educate and empower Stressed Sports Parents, then we will:
FIX THE PROBLEM.