Youth sports provide a platform for children to learn and develop skills that they wouldn’t otherwise find in the classroom. Most importantly, these skills and lessons are being learned all while kids are building lifelong friendships and having a great time. Unfortunately, despite the importance of youth sports in the development of children, the overall youth sport participation has been declining in recent years. In my first blog post, “A Dying Breed“, I go in depth into the current situation of youth sports. The purpose of this post is to reveal to parents the most common myths surrounding youth sports, and also to provide information that either supports, or debunks, each myth.
Myth #1: Winning is everything. False: Naturally, winning plays a major role in any sport or competition. However, it is most definitely not “everything”. When it comes to youth sports, winning is far less important than following the rules, trying your best, and having fun. A focus that is solely on winning will not give children the best possible experience. Children should compete and try their best to win, but it is important that they lose. Overcoming a loss will develop valuable skills that will help children overcome obstacles and adversity later on in life.
Myth #2: Your child must specialize as early as possible if they want to play in college or professionally. False: Early specialization does not equate to a more skilled athlete. In fact, the more sports a child plays, the better developed all of their motor skills will be. Motor skills that a child learns in one sport, can help them athletically in another sport. Also, when children only play one sport for a long period of time they can easily become burnt out and may want to give up sports altogether.
Myth #3: Youth Sports are expensive. Plausible: Youth sports can be as expensive or inexpensive as you choose. If a parent has a child playing on a private team or travel team, this will be more expensive than just playing in the local recreational league. Also, costs very from sport to sport. For example, generally ice hockey will be more expensive to play than soccer. Don’t let this scare you away from any particular sport. Youth sports definitely don’t have to break the budget. There are many affordable ways to allow kids to play the sport they want.
Myth #4: Youth sports cause injuries. False: Youth sports do not cause injuries. Injuries are typically the result of overtraining. In the professionals, days off are valuable opportunities for the athletes to rest their bodies. In youth sports, rest is equally as important. Children who constantly train or over-exercise put a great burden on their bodies. Over time, this load becomes too much for the body to handle and results in injuries. Parents need to be able to monitor how much their child is doing and prevent them from over-working. More importantly, parents need to remind themselves to not push their children beyond a comfortable level.
Myth #5: It ends the way it begins. False: Just because a child might not like a sport at first, it doesn’t mean they won’t begin to start liking it as the season goes on. The same idea goes for if they enjoy playing in the beginning, but then as the season goes on they may start to get tired of the sport. It is important for parents to support their children throughout the entire season because it is likely that there will be fluctuations.
Myth #6: Coaches can do everything. False: Youth sports require support from multiple parties in order to create the best possible experience. Coaches are responsible for providing the most instruction and guidance. However, help from parents and volunteers can go a long way. Parents can help out with practices, organizing team parties, or preparing and maintaining the fields and equipment. Getting involved gives parents opportunities to work right alongside their children and can be an extremely rewarding experience.
Myth #7: The more money I put in, the better experience I will create. False: Investing a lot of money into your child’s youth sport experience does not lead to a better overall experience. Parents tend to brag about being gone every weekend for their child’s travel team, or that their child made an elite sports team (even though they had to pay large sums of money for their child to be on the team). In reality, there is a limit to the monetary influence on a child’s skill level and experience.
Myth #8: Youth sports are perfect. False: Youth sports are not perfect. There are many different areas in which youth sports can be improved. However, youth sports are an extremely useful tool in building and developing skills in children. The fact that they are not perfect is actually not such a bad thing. Youth sports can provide parents many opportunities to teach their children about life and overcoming obstacles.
Youth sports are one of those domains in which people have a broad range of experiences. Because of this variability, there are differing beliefs in how youth sports should be approached. The purpose of this blog post was to identify common myths about youth sports, and then provide information relating to each myth. Links to more in-depth information about youth sports can be found on my previous blog post, “Parental Playbook“. Additionally, the @YouthSportsatMSU twitter profile is another great resource for up-to-date information involving youth sports.