March 23, 2010
How Youth Sports Have Changed and At What Cost- Part I
Playing youth t-ball or joining your first soccer team when you were 9 years old used to be fun, beginner level experiences for children to experience the fun of learning how to play a specific sport. You used to join a rec league for a season and then if you wanted to, could try another sport the following season. Youth sports have changed dramatically over the past 20-30 years and now kids are starting to play organized team sports as young as 3 or 4 years old and choosing a sport to specialize in and play year round by the end of elementary school with special private coaching and using the best pitching machines and batting cages during the off season, for example. The level of intensity for youth sports is the same as it was for teen atheltes and even some college athletes 25 years ago and this is causing several new issues.
One of the greatest differences is the age at which kids are encouraged to play sports. Not long ago, the youngest age usually, was around seven or eight years old to try soccer and ten or eleven years old to try basketball. Now it is 3 years old for soccer and five years old for basketball. Most of the kids at these little ages don’t have neither the physical coordination nor the attention span to be able to get through an hour long sports practice. Because of this, kids give up on a sport very young because it was too hard for them.
Kids are also being told that they have to specialize and focus on one sport by the time they are 10 years old in order to get a sports scholarship to college. This has increased stress related injuries in a lot younger ages as a result of overdoing it on their still developing bodies. The overuse on the kids physically and mentally has created an entire generation of youth to completely burn out by the time they reach middle school or high school which is a real shame.
Check back next week for the continuation of this article.