In the previous post, A Dying Breed, I discussed the current situation of youth sports. The decline in youth sports participation worries me greatly because of all the benefits that stem from them. I know first hand, through my own childhood experiences, how organizations like little league baseball, AYSO soccer, club swimming, etc. can have a monumental impact on the development of a child. I learned things through sports that I never really got from the classroom; however, the things I learned through sport were still able to help me in the classroom, as well as other spheres of my life. Despite my overwhelming support for youth sports, parents should do as much research as they feel necessary before allowing their children to participate. Below, I have compiled a list of resources that talk about both the good and the bad when it comes to youth sports.
1. University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC)
The UPMC site has a sports medicine section. In this section, you can find a list of pros and cons of youth sport participation created by Joseph Luxbacher, PhD. Dr. Luxbacher is also the men’s head soccer coach at Pittsburgh. He begins by briefly talking about multiple benefits of youth sports that include: enjoyment, structure, opportunity to socialize, learning life skills and improved health. He then goes on to list potential areas of concern, such as: parents consumed with winning, elimination of children at early ages and too much organization. This is a good site for anyone who wants a brief explanation of the pros and cons of youth sports.
TrueSport is movement led by the U.S Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) that seeks to ensure a positive youth sports experience by imparting the lessons of clean competition, sportsmanship, and peak performance. The site has compiled a growing body of research and literature on the psychological, physical social benefits of playing youth sports. I really like this site because it also explains that sports themselves do not necessarily build character, but rather provide the environment and opportunity for growth to happen. The site also touches on the various ways to optimize the potential benefits of youth sports.
NFL PLAY 60 is the National Football League’s campaign to encourage kids to be active for at least 60 minutes a day. The site has a section for both parents and kids. The purpose of this site is to encourage children to get involved in things such as flag football, school programs, and other community events. This is a good site for kids especially because all the support from NFL players can motivate them to be more active.
The mission of the Changing the Game Project is to ensure that we return youth sports to the children. It is led by John O’ Sullivan, a coach, player, speaker and author. This site is extremely useful in that it explains the current situation of youth sports and also provides solutions on how to improve it. John identifies four major issues with youth sports that are preventing children from having the best possible experience. This site is great for parents and coaches who want to ensure that the children get the most out of playing youth sports.
Obviously, nothing is perfect, and youth sports are a great example of that. However, youth sports provide a great opportunity for children to develop many different skills that would otherwise be difficult to acquire. All parents should be familiar with the nature of youth sports and know exactly what they want their children to get out of it. The sites above are good resources to check out that will inform parents on ways to ensure that their child makes the most out of their playing experiences.