Many modern sports parents take their child’s athletic careers too seriously, too fast.
The kid first begins playing the sport in an organized fashion at about age 5 or 6, and before the time they hit puberty, they’re already spending tens of hours on the game each week and traveling across the country for months on end to participate in tournaments and showcases.
While many parents (mistakenly) believe this is the best path to their child eventually earning a college scholarship, it can also greatly increases their risk of burnout. Burnout refers to a young athlete reaching physical and emotional exhaustion with regards to playing a certain sport, causing them to drop it all together. It’s no exaggeration to say a lack of fun may be the biggest problem in the modern youth sports ecosystem. A poll from the National Alliance of Youth Sports found that 70 percent of U.S. kids stop playing organized sports by the age of 13, citing “not having fun anymore” as the most common reason.
Spoiler alert: if kids are quitting sports before they even hit high school, they’re not going to earn that scholarship. Nor are they going to experience many of the important life lessons and memories high school sports have to offer. This is precisely why fun should be the focus for young athletes, as opposed to wins or statistics. Don Showalter, Director of Coach Development for USA Basketball, recently spoke on the topic at a Cavaliers Academy camp in Strongsville, Ohio.
“First of all, I’m a parent myself. I understand the nuances of being a parent and your kid playing. You want what’s best for your son or daughter. You love them more than anyone else on the team. But in the long run, parents who just sit back and let their son or daughter have fun at the game is the way those kids develop. The first thing a parent should ask after a game or practice is, ‘Did you have fun?’ Not how you did or, ‘hey, you should’ve scored this,’ but, ‘Hey, did you have fun?’ That’s the number one thing parents should ask. Then in the car when you’re going home from a game, you don’t really talk about the game. You talk about what did you like about it, then stop for a hamburger on the way home. Parents (can) get involved enough that it can take the fun out of what the youngster wants to do,” Showalter says. “The main thing is are they having fun and are they getting better. That’s what we emphasize.”
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