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Keeping Perspective in Sports

As the start of our spring season has arrived, I feel that its immensely important to remind our parents and families to keep perspective about the tremendous pressures we put on our chidren in the name or wins and losses at the youth level.

I have provided a few short articles from studies done throughout the country that I believe may be an extremely important read.

David A. Feigley, Ph.D.

Youth Sports Research Council

Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey

Winning increases in importance as kids get older.Won-Loss records prior to the age of puberty have little effect on the respect and regard that kids have for their youth sport coaches. Prior to the age of 12 years, research clearly shows that 75% of the youngsters would prefer to play for a losing team than sit on the bench of a winning team. However, during the teenage years, won-loss accomplishments do, in fact, influence the respect which a young athlete has for his or her coach. Coaches should realize that athletes of different ages react different to winning and losing. Such facts emphasize the importance that coaches of younger athletes should not merely mimic the behavior of successful coaches of older youngsters.

According to the University of Notre Dame’s Center for Ethical Education, research shows that kids play sports for the following reasons:

• To have fun (always #1)

• To do something I am good at

• To improve my skills

• To get exercise and stay in shape

• To be part of a team

• The excitement of competition

They do not play to win. They like to win, they enjoy competing, but they do not play to win. They play to have fun, to be with their friends, to feel good about themselves, and because it is exciting. Yet how often do we pick and choose our kids’ sports team because it is the winning team, the winning coach, the defending champion, and assume that because of all the wins everything else just happens? We look at wins and losses and fail to search for happy faces and proper developmental environments.

The sad statistics indicate that while only 3-5 percent of high school athletes even play in college, an even smaller number receive athletic financial aid. About one in one thousand high school athletes receives a college scholarship (most of them only partial), and about one in thirteen thousand ever becomes a professional. Unfortunately, even in the face of those numbers, between 30-50 percent of youth sports parents believe their child is good enough to get a scholarship. This reality distortion is one of the effects of a youth sports culture that promises the latest bat, the newest shoe, or the most elite camp will have college coaches knocking down your door with a big check in hand.

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