Real Sports Highlights Parents Youth Sports Dilemma

When Derek Jeter was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, he went to the set of MLB Network to talk about his career. During that time, he advocated for playing multiple sports as a kid. Sadly, the world is seemingly moving away from that.

Increasingly, parents are seeking to have their children specialize in just one sport. Worse yet, parents are doing it with children at younger and younger ages.

While this seems unhealthy (it is), it’s actually worse than imagined. On a recent episode of Real Sports, they highlighted how this has led to what doctors are referring to an epidemic of sports injuries among children.

Seeing young prepubescent children undergo the knife is shocking. What’s all the more troubling is hearing different statements from the children and their parents.

You heard the soccer players talk about how if they took some time off, time their bodies needed to recover, they fell behind. This meant the loss of an opportunity to fulfill dreams of playing collegiate soccer. For some, that could mean the loss of a much needed athletic scholarship.

Others spoke about how even though they’ll need knee surgeries and have early onset arthritis, they still love the sport and want to keep pushing themselves past their braking point.

It’s very easy to say these parents have lost all perspective and criticize them. Obviously, what they’re doing is crazy, and in the Real Sports segment, they actually admit it. Chances are, they got to this point very innocently.

Parents talk about the joy their children feel playing the sports while also clearly pained by what’s happening. In their faces, you see an inner dilemma and turmoil, and to date, they don’t have a solution.

Seeing what I see now from an athletic six year old, I’m surmising this is something which innocently happens at the outset.

At a young age, my son has been recruited to play for travel hockey and soccer teams. Yes, you read that correctly. A six year old is being recruited.

With those recruitments, we’ve heard pitches of an inside track to this high school or being able to work with that coach. As noted in the Real Sports article, youth sports is a big business now, and coaches want the best players to rack up wins and notoriety.

Going back to the kids for a moment, you see a difference between a child liking a sport and a child LOVING a sport.

What do you do when your child actually wants to play the same sport constantly? What do you do when your child strives to improve? What do you do when your child’s best friends are on those teams?

When viewed through that prism you begin to see this less as parents being monsters who abdicate their perspective, and you begin to see parents as people who were just trying to do their best and lost their perspective.

These youth leagues shoulder much of the blame. They’re the supposed experts who are supposed to direct you onto the right path. Lost in that is their existence is fueled by you doing more and more and not necessarily by doing what’s right by the children.

So what do you, as parents do?

First and foremost, don’t sign up your child for a team unless you trust the coaches. If those teams are worth their salt, they’ll speak with you beforehand. Personally, I knew we found the right team when the coach preached playing multiple sports and taking a break.

You see parents are not immediately aware of burnout and fatigue. Aside from the risks shown by Real Sports, at some point, a child will get sick of playing the same thing all the time.

Another factor with playing other sports is they’re fun. It may not be as fun as the main sport, but it’s still fun. In those sports, your child not only works on other skills which will help them in other sports (for example, baseball is great for hand/eye coordination), but for parents, you get perspective.

You’ll see what other parents say about those sports. You also get out of the bubble. Your child gets to branch out, discover something new, and have fun.

It also doesn’t have to be a sport. It can be music lessons, or just sitting home and playing with Legos. Really, just something different. It’s helps your child, and it helps you better parent your child.

In the end, this is about your child’s health and enjoyment of life. When these sports start becoming professionalized at a young age, the fun is being drained from them, and with it comes increased injury. The sports won’t change, but the parenting can.

Overall, as parents, just remember you want happy and healthy children, and in the end, you’re really the only one with your child’s best interests in mind. Seek out advice from an array of sources, do your research, and in the end, trust your instincts.