Thursday, January 7, 2010

First topic of discussion...

Here is a recent article about why youth sports is ruining kids. My next blog will be my reaction to this piece.

Why I can’t stand youth sports anymore
By Scott Martin
Ihate sports. I hate everything about them — the politics, the commitment, the late practices, the early practices, the hard work, the running, the skating, the tryouts, the sprints, the ladders, the boring drills, the overly enthusiastic parents, the cheers, the mascots, the jerseys, the screaming, the injuries, the repetition and, more than anything, the competition and pressure.

Yes, I’m the same child who grew up on soccer fields, the very same boy who played competitive soccer and hockey, and the same adolescent who, in less than three months, will try out for varsity lacrosse, but I’ve suddenly realized I loathe everything remotely associated with sports.

There was a time when I would diligently attend 5 a.m. hockey practice before school. There was a time when I would walk into class dripping sweat and reeking. There was a time when I dreamed big.

What caused this drastic change? Last year, a high school football player in Kentucky was allegedly “practiced to death,” although his coach was acquitted in September. Just before school started this fall, two young teens from St. Louis collapsed during practice and died. Since the season started, two high school seniors in California and Chicago collapsed during games and died.

I realized that we as a society take our children’s sports too far. Excessive parental involvement, ridiculous coaching policies, and programs built toward only victory have created a purely competitive, commitment-based sporting environment, turning kids off the games they love and distracting younger generations from the important humanizing elements that sports can teach.

American kids traditionally are enrolled in soccer by the age of 5 or 6, before many can proficiently read and write. We live in an age when the athletic scholarship overshadows the academic scholarship, where the sport you play determines the money you make. It’s a time in which the only way to get where you want to go is if you start early and never stop.

“Kids’ sports have become much more competitive,” says Dr. Jordan Metzl, medical director of the Sports Medicine Institute for Young Athletes. “In general, high-level competition for young kids is not a great thing.”

Sadly, children are helpless in the cultural labyrinth of sports. At the early age when most kids begin their sporting careers, the average child has no perception or experience with commitment, and parents, in hopes of breeding the next Michael Phelps or A-Rod, force their children into highly organized and unhealthy competitive lifestyles. When children reach the point to decide for themselves, many simply burn out, overwhelmed by the commitment and competitive atmosphere.

This high level of competition is also taking its toll on the bodies of young athletes. According to a 1999 study, kids 5 to 14 years old had the highest injury rates — 59.3 cases per 1,000 — and most of these injuries were a direct result of competitive sports and recreation.

Once a symbol of cooperation, leadership and sportsmanship, sports have become nodes of intense competition and immaturity— markedly beginning with adults. USA Hockey, in response to “unsatisfactory” parental behavior in ice rinks, began hanging posters emblazoned with the slogan, “Relax. It’s just a game.”

The real tragedy, though, is that many kids are missing out on the true importance of sports. Winning in most organizations overshadows virtue, sportsmanship and the game itself. Overbearing coaches drill young players into submission, resulting in a loss of self-esteem and confidence in the kids, and brewing a general distaste toward the game itself.

I love hockey, but I can’t stand the system and the ridiculous cultural values that coincide with athletic competition. It’s disheartening to know that despite all the hard work and time I’ve sacrificed, I still won’t go pro. And it’s ridiculous that I should even care about that. Something must be fundamentally wrong with the system when a boy dies merely training for the sport he loves — and if that is the case, I definitely

have better things to do with

my time.
Scott Martin is a senior at Cherry Creek High School and lives in Centennial.

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