Keeping Youth Sports in Perspective

I have almost completed raising three kids and there are two things that I know for certain: 1) Your children are almost never as smart as you think they are, and 2) Your children are almost never as athletic as you think they are. I blame the second of these certainties, along with a desire for junior to make up for mom and dad’s inadequacies, for most problems in organized youth sports.

A legendary high school basketball player from my hometown of Columbia Falls, Montana, Craig Finberg, went on to become a legendary basketball coach in Dillon, Montana. Craig won multiple state championships and was considered to be one of the best high school coaches in Montana. Sadly, Craig developed cancer and his life was ultimately cut far too short. My favorite story about Craig Finberg involves how he answered the following question near his death: “Craig, if reincarnation is real what would you like to come back as?” After a short pause, Craig answered, “A basketball coach AT AN ORPHANAGE.”

Youth sports are the passion in my life. I have coached all of my kids at from kindergarten through high school and I referee high school basketball. I feel so strongly about youth sports because I credit most of my success from the lessons I learned playing football, basketball and baseball. Learning how to compete and dealing with both setbacks and successes developed more on the ball field and basketball court than in any classroom. However, the past twenty years have seen a real drop in participation in youth sports.

I was disappointed to learn that seventy percent of kids will quit sports by the time they turn 13. I think I know why this has happened. As parents have increased the pressure on kids, many are leaving sports early because they did not make the cut. In Bozeman, “all star” baseball teams are selected for ten year olds. There is no way ten year old kids are emotionally ready to be segregated into all stars and non-all stars. To make matters worse, there is no way anyone can know who is going to be a star player when they are ten. It is little wonder that over two-thirds of kids call it quits by 13.

I realize that not every kid is going to make the cut. I was cut from the all star team in Spokane, Washington when I was 13 and remember it being completely devastating. I have watched my own kids go through the same struggle of not making a team and wishing I could take away all of their pain. As tough as those experience can be, I am glad my boys were able to make it through those experiences. The fact is, at some point in time, your kid will get cut from a team. Although cliché, it is true, you will always learn more from your setbacks than you will your successes. Your kids will turn out just fine not because you kept them from some of life’s pains but because they were able to grow from those struggles.

Here are some more articles about keeping kids sports in perspective: