“Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it” Proverbs 22:6 (ESV).
Sports have traditionally facilitated a platform for teachable moments; they offer black and white moments that serve as a crucible for character development throughout all of life.
"I want to help redeem the culture of youth sports!"
Parental involvement has proved a learning ground, traditionally serving as a critical component for helping support, encourage and cultivate lifelong character principles throughout the growth, maturation and development process — both on and off the field.
However, what often starts out as a good thing (parental involvement in youth sports) filled with right intentions, far too often ends with unnecessary pain and frustration for kids and coaches alike.
The trend goes something like this:
A parent signs his or her child up for a sport and quickly notices that the child seems to have a fair amount of natural talent.
Others quickly take notice, too.
Coaches start approaching and praising their son’s or daughter’s abilities and encouraging the parents to specialize in a specific sport — enrolling them in travel teams, elite camps and personal training.
The next thing you know, parents are risking their own financial future in the hope their child will secure a scholarship, play Division 1 and maybe, just maybe, play professionally.
Those are the common trends. Here are the blunt facts:
- Only three percent of high school players receive scholarships in most sports
- Only .02 to .03 percent of participants will play professionally (that is two to three individuals out of 10,000 high school participants) in the NBA or WNBA
Due to the hypercompetitive, parent-driven pressure on elite travel clubs, specialization has started at a younger age with some analysts ranking the nation’s top kindergartners.
As a result of that absurdity, the weaning process is more expeditious than ever. A majority of youth are hanging up the sporting life forever prior to their eleventh birthday, with many participating less than three years in organized athletics.
That is unfortunate, as sports do provide unparalleled opportunities — opportunities to learn how to win and lose “gracefully,” opportunities for players to learn how to properly deal with their emotions while experiencing failure in a safe environment, opportunities that encourage teamwork, work ethic and challenge beliefs of entitlement and opportunities to do one’s best no matter what!
These results might not show up on the scoreboard, but how one responds to these opportunities — either positively or negatively — does affect one’s future.
So what is the proper response for a parent in youth sports?
Rather than fuel mental burnout and stress in kids, allow sports to be FUN! Structure and fun can coexist. It is important to remember why your kid began playing sports in the first place. Maybe it was for social reasons. Maybe it was for developing good character qualities. Maybe it was to improve his dexterity.
Regardless of the reason, remember to have fun and enjoy the journey rather than the end destination. Remember that application — daily enjoying the journey — will carry you further throughout life, regardless of the outcome.