Money Has Ruined Youth Sports


I love sports, but youth sports are wild. I recently read an insightful article by Douglas Brunt that is worth a read by all parents—especially those with young children. He notes:

The problem is that the wealth and fame of sports is a lure for the wrong-headed parenting that specializes kids who are too young to decide for themselves, all for an outcome with lottery odds of success.

The road to professional contracts in all sports is littered with the teenage bodies that made the same sacrifices but fell short and are now largely unprepared for an adult life apart from sports. Our society is about to experience its first full generation of these teenagers entering the workforce, or not.

The answer to this problem lies in the home and in the schools. Some possible remedies are limits on organized off-season sports practice in high school, minimum age requirements in professional leagues, heightened parental awareness of the importance of balanced education and experience for kids.

Brunt also notes that awareness seems to be building, and I agree. I often speak with parents who struggle to get their children/teens to do anything other than sports, even though they know they won’t play in college or professionally. But I also know plenty of parents who think sports is their kid’s ticket to a selective college or university—not hard work and focus academically. All these kids do outside of school and homework is their sport because “they don’t have time” for anything else. Beyond the life imbalance this creates, these families face a major challenge when it comes time to apply to college if their child is not recruited: what concrete value do they have to add beyond their sport? Students are not admitted to schools based on the value they will add to a club or intramural sports team. If you are not a recruited athlete, athletics matter very little. So when that is all you’ve done, you’ll have a much harder time highlighting how you will uniquely contribute to a college or university campus. You simply won’t be a very attractive candidate.

I am all about sports because they help many kids and teens build confidence, learn how to work with others, and simply get them out of the house and moving, but I think it is time to get real about the harm that laser-sharp focus on a single sport can have on the life experience of youth. The same can be said for other fields and areas of focus. As it applies to college admission, you do want to have a specialty, but you don’t need to be—and shouldn’t want to be—a one-trick pony.

To read more about this topic, make sure to check out Brunt’s third book, Trophy Son, available for pre-order now on Amazon:

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