[Editor’s Note: I want to welcome one of our new writers for this summer, Mac Trigg. He brings a passion for basketball and also plays football, tennis (and a little bit of lacrosse). Many of our readers play competitive and club sports. The level of competition can be fierce. The level of parental involvement (and coaching intensity) can be a little excessive. This article looks at some of those topics and hopefully will bring some comments from readers.]
Lately, a show called Friday Night Tykes has been getting some viewing time. The Netflix drama is based in football-crazy Texas. The exact location is San Antonio, home of the Alamo and one of the most ferocious junior football leagues in the country. It looks at junior football through the eyes of coaches, parents and, amazingly, 8-year old kids.
The show is an eye opener. Here are a few examples. Kids were vomiting at practice in 100-degree heat. Coaches were yelling profanity at the top of their lungs (including hothead and former Marine “Coach Charles” for the Junior Broncos). Parents were scared to death. The episodes caused me to ask an important question: are youth athletics too competitive?
There are a number of reason to believe that kids are being pushed in a direction that is too competitive. First, when you play a sport year around, you have a higher chance of getting hurt from repetitive over-use of your body. Second, the kids of parents who push them to play sports at a young age normally burn out. They rarely make it to the professional ranks, leaving the sport in middle school or high school. Finally, some kids in lower income brackets cannot afford these top-notch training programs. They can cost hundreds of dollars a season, above and beyond required uniforms and equipment.
On the other hand, some people believe that it is not overly competitive. There are a set of argument to make this case. You have to work hard to succeed in life. Sports help you learn that lesson at an early age. In addition, competitive sports teach a person to deal with failure. Life isn’t perfect. You have to be able to deal with a loss. Finally, it is better to learn that you are not always going to be the best player on the team at a young age.
Competitive sports are good for young kids to experience. Friday Night Tykes is not the true reality for every sport. Every sport is as different as the kids that play them. If you have a kid with a passion for a sport, he or she should sign up for it and play. If they want to move to the next level and play under the Friday Night Lights, you should consider it, but not force them to do it.
Of course, it is probably fair to say that Coach Charles doesn’t share that view. It would be great to hear what some of our readers think.