Imagine if the President and CEO of McDonald’s, Chris Kempczinski lectured you about your child’s eating habits. Or, what if the marketing executives at Epic Games scolded you about the amount of screen time your kids are consuming.
Well, this sort of thing happens to parents every day in the industry of youth sports.
Clubs and industry professionals bombard parents with overly-aggressive marketing tactics and mixed messages; which they then reprimand us for not ignoring…huh?
Every year my inbox is flooded with invitations for my sons to try out for the elite, gold, platinum, premium, select, regional, national, international [add more superlatives and precious medals] team.
And did I tell you that they are eight and 11 years old?
While I understand the pressure that organizations face to recruit, these messages contribute to a youth sports culture that’s becoming hyper-competitive and accessible for only a few.
One such message is that expensive programs and lengthy travel are both necessary for player development. I am careful not to be judgemental of parents and programs that are doing the best that they can.
However, I spend many days counseling parents that
Free play and individual training in the backyard cost nothing, yet are just as (if not more) important as anything offered in a structured team environment.
Listen to this show where we discuss empowering parents to help their children improve their skills and confidence.
In addition, we seem to only celebrate the few athletes that eventually play professionally and highlight only those teams that win tournaments.
Despite all the mixed messages and marketing tactics, industry leaders waste no time chastising the parents of young athletes about their behavior. And ironically, they seem tone-deaf to how their leadership contributes to many of the toxic issues in youth sports.
Related: Five Negative Parent Stereotypes
We are Indeed Making Progress
So let me clarify. I don’t think people have ill intentions at all. Rather they are uninformed about the complexity of the situation. The negative trends in youth sports are as complex as any other societal problem.
Fixing youth sports is not going to be as easy as telling parents to do better or to love watching their kids play.
The good news is that there are many wonderful coaches, club leaders, and parents on the ground doing great work. Unfortunately, this is not talked about enough.
So while I appreciate you enduring my rant – know that we are slowly making progress to leave youth sports better than we received it.