Student Well-Being

Are Parents Ruining Sports For Their Kids?

By Karla Scoon Reid — May 09, 2014 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

As the mother of two energetic young boys, I’m constantly looking for activities to keep them busy—also known as strategies to maintain my sanity.

When I sign them up to play a team sport, my goals are deceivingly simple:


  • Have fun;
  • Make friends;
  • Exercise;
  • Learn about the sport; and
  • Try hard.

But lately, I’ve had this nagging feeling that the fun is being sucked out of these youth sports, and I think parents, myself included, are often to blame.

That’s what Jay Atkinson wrote in a piece that appeared in the Boston Globe Magazine this month. In a time when family engagement is being touted as a panacea to fix our struggling schools, Atkinson, who runs the Methuen Fun Hockey League “Skate & Read” program in Methuen, Mass., says too much parent involvement and too much money are ruining youth sports.

Atkinson warns his fellow coaches, community leaders, educators, and parents that the growing popularity of single-sport specialization, privatization of youth leagues, and the ranking and cutting of young children are harmful trends.

According to Atkinson, three out of four American families with school-aged children have at least one playing an organized sport, or roughly 45 million youths. However, he said the Open Access Journal of Sports Medicine found that by age 15, as many as 80 percent have quit.

The culprit, according to Atkinson, is the expectations of adults who view their kids’ games as “miniature versions of grown-up competitions.” He adds that seeking private coaches to improve a child’s athletic abilities is a “misguided attempt to accelerate a process that may not even be occurring, since most young athletes will never reach the elite level.”

So what’s a parent to do? Atkinson paints an idyllic picture of his days as a youth, when his friends organized their own sports leagues and games.

Sadly, I believe those cinematic “Sandlot” days are long gone in most American neighborhoods. If your child doesn’t participate in a sports league in my community, he or she is not learning how to play lacrosse, football, or basketball. Neighborhoods are often silent after school and during the summer because kids are attending practice, playing in a game or enrolled in a camp.

Perhaps Atkinson’s best advice is encouraging adults to “set their egos aside and remember to let the kids have fun.” But his assertion that the only way to achieve that goal is returning youth sports to the neighborhood is unlikely to occur.

Related Tags:

A version of this news article first appeared in the K-12 Parents and the Public blog.


Commenting has been disabled on edweek.org effective Sept. 8. Please visit our FAQ section for more details. To get in touch with us visit our contact page, follow us on social media, or submit a Letter to the Editor.


Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Teaching Webinar
What’s Next for Teaching and Learning? Key Trends for the New School Year
The past 18 months changed the face of education forever, leaving teachers, students, and families to adapt to unprecedented challenges in teaching and learning. As we enter the third school year affected by the pandemic—and
Content provided by Instructure
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Curriculum Webinar
How Data and Digital Curriculum Can Drive Personalized Instruction
As we return from an abnormal year, it’s an educator’s top priority to make sure the lessons learned under adversity positively impact students during the new school year. Digital curriculum has emerged from the pandemic
Content provided by Kiddom
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Equity & Diversity Webinar
Leadership for Racial Equity in Schools and Beyond
While the COVID-19 pandemic continues to reveal systemic racial disparities in educational opportunity, there are revelations to which we can and must respond. Through conscientious efforts, using an intentional focus on race, school leaders can
Content provided by Corwin

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Student Well-Being Opinion Educators, Be Future-Ready, But Don’t Ignore the Present
Being ready for what lies ahead is important, but we also need to gain a better understanding of the here and now.
5 min read
shutterstock 226918177
Shutterstock
Student Well-Being Opinion How to Prioritize Student Well-Being This Year
Use the Student Thriving Index to find out where your kids stand. Because you cannot manage what you cannot measure.
2 min read
Images shows a stylized artistic landscape with soothing colors.
Getty
Student Well-Being Spotlight Spotlight on Supporting Teachers & Students
In this Spotlight, evaluate your district and what supports your schools offer, assess attendance policies to avoid burnout, and more
Student Well-Being What the Research Says Child Hospitalizations Spike Under Delta, Particularly in Low-Vaccination States
Nationwide, the number of children and teens hospitalized due to COVID-19 has ballooned nearly tenfold since midsummer, new CDC data show.
2 min read
hopital stethescope 1222194507
Aleksandr Titov/iStock/Getty