I believe the culture surrounding today’s youth sports is too competitive. Don’t get me wrong. As a coach and former college athlete, I am competitive, but when parents and coaches want to win more than the athletes, there is a problem. And the pressure that comes from this common imbalance is causing young athletes to quit sports.
In the United States alone over 45 million children play sports. Sports are fun and help teach young athletes life lessons, yet by the age of 13, nearly 70% of athletes have quit playing. Some of this is the natural ebb and flow of young people finding out which activities they truly enjoy. But many young athletes quit sports because the sport is no longer fun and has become too competitive.
One reason young athletes are no longer having fun playing sports is because many feel too much pressure. Though some don’t mind a little pressure from their parents, for others the pressure is too much. Many parents are convinced that their child will be in the 1% who receives a full-ride athletic scholarship and so they push until their child quits or wishes they could. These parents would be better off saving money for college instead of spending a college education worth of money on extra training and select travel teams.
There are also parents who live vicariously through their children. Putting immense pressure on them to succeed in their sport. To live the same life they did or live the life they wish they’d had. When a parent cares more about the outcome of a game or event than their child, it’s not a good thing. A parent’s constant pressure, which often includes yelling and screaming, takes the fun out of the game. But it’s not always the parents who put on the pressure.
Overly Competitive Coaches
There are also coaches out there who focus primarily on winning, or who convince their players to give up other sports. These coaches have forgotten what coaching is really about. Sports should make a child’s life better. They should support their physical and mental health, and quality of life. While teaching a sport, a coach needs to let off some of the pressure and keep the sport fun.
The Problem with Pressure
Many problems arise when a young athlete feels a lot of pressure. First, they may feel that they have to specialize in one sport and give up the other sports that they love. This can lead to overuse injuries as well as physical and mental burnout. And with the continuous pressure of playing just one sport, an athlete may find they are no longer having fun and decide to quit.
Not all pressure is bad. Every person will have to deal with pressure during their lifetime, and sports is a great place to learn how to handle pressure. The normal pressure of playing in front of fans, handling tight games, and dealing with losses. Parents and coaches can help young athletes. Teach them to write down goals and focus on preparation. To use meditation or breathing techniques to relax before a competition. Reduce their pressure and help them in dealing with it.
Fun Positive Environment
What can be done to help reduce the overly competitive atmosphere that we see in youth sports today, and keep young athletes on courts and playing fields? First of all, parents should support their children, but not go overboard. Enjoy watching their children play without having overblown expectations. Coaches should focus on keeping a positive fun environment. Come to practice organized and prepared. Coaches can still be competitive, but they should remember why they coach. It’s not about the outcome of the game; they coach to help develop players, not only as athletes but also as human beings.