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Parents need to tone it down on youth sports

Posted: November 25, 2012 - 1:05am

Pick any sport and you’ll hear people complain that professional athletes make too much money for playing a “kids game.”

Hopefully those athletes are taking the game as seriously as kids these days seemingly are supposed to.

In the past month I’ve attended a few youth football games involving 7-year-olds. I hope they’re having fun, win or lose, because the adult spectators seem a bit too involved with the competition.

I understand the concept of playing to win, but sometimes parents and coaches, are carrying things a bit too far.

At one game, I overheard a coach giving his players a pregame talk. “Man up; do your job” was part of the impassioned speech.

That is usually directed at high school or college athletes.

Do we really need a 7-year-old to “man up?’’

Do we need a coach on the field about to lose his mind and composure when little Johnny is out of position on a 32 Slant X-Fire Red Dog and the opposing team gains a few extra yards?

One or two plays into the game I heard statements from the stands such as “get somebody in there that can block.”

Really?

I’m not a coach or parent, but at what age do sports go from being a fun activity to one where winning and losing is all that matters – to the exclusion of those who aren’t as good?

I would say high school, where there is an actual delineation called the junior varsity. Those who aren’t ready for the varsity squad play there, and if they’re good enough at some point, they will play for the varsity. Even making varsity doesn’t equate to playing time. There is plenty of pressure on high school coaches to win, and they will put the players on the field they think give the team the best chance to do that.

At another game, one team thought a player on the other team was targeting their players and trying to injure them. Their team was suffering a rash of injuries that day. The main reaction to the situation, however, was “Get that kid.” Some couched it as “Block him if you get the chance,” but it sounded the same to me.

Was the player targeting opposing players? I don’t know, but league officials I spoke to the week after the game said no formal protest against the player was ever made.

A high school athlete I was interviewing recently said something that resonated with me. “I might play sports for fun, but I wasn’t on a team or anything.”

I don’t think he meant it wasn’t fun to play on a team, but the phrasing was interesting.

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