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The Goal of Youth Sports Is Changing

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By Dr. Raymond Tucker |

Youth sports as we remember provided us with an opportunity to become active by participating in sports and learning the rules of our favorite sport, along with sportsmanship, and the opportunity to make new friends and learn lifelong lessons have changed. Parents and coaches have taken the fun and excitement out of youth sports and transformed it into a multibillion-dollar business with the expansion of club and elite teams, which have surged over the last 20 years.

Reports show that the youth sports industry in the United States has generated more than $15 billion annually. It is estimated that nearly 20% of American families spent more than $12,000 a year on youth sports per child. The primary rationale behind this spending is that these dedicated parents hope their investments will lead to an athletic scholarship at a college or university or participating in the Olympics or even becoming a professional athlete one day. The reality is that only one percent of high school athletes will receive an athletic scholarship and even though parents understand the probabilities they are still hopeful that they can become the one percent.

Coaches have seen overzealous parents who crave the admiration that comes with their son or daughter making the club or elite travel team and they have quit their jobs to start and coach these teams, some parents have even resorted to starting their teams if their son or daughter does not make the team. The top coaches in soccer can earn an annual salary of up to $55,820, and volleyball coaches can make up to $59,807 or more varying on how much the fees are per sport some sports can charge an average of $2,500 to $5,000 per season or year, with registration fees up to $500.00. This does not include the cost of team travel, lodging, gas, and some cases airfare. Some parents have even gone to extraordinary measures by employing specialized technical and sports performance coaches to train their children to enhance their opportunities to make these teams.

Coaches are persuading parents and athletes by attending middle and high school games and tournaments promising the perfect training plan to enhance athletic performance and the promise of an athletic scholarship. Some coaches have used other manipulative tactics such as telling parents that if they want their son or daughter to make the varsity team at the high school, they need to play club sports because all of the kids are doing it and speak negatively about the coaches at the public schools in a way to lure them away.

The false promises made by some of these coaches and organizations have changed the role of the parent and the family relationship to a designated driver and dinner at home as a family has changed to a number one combo at the nearest fast-food restaurant. Participating in club sports has taken over as the new “Caretaker” and it is raising your children.

The truth of the matter is this: if your son or daughter is good enough to be awarded an athletic scholarship, coaches will discover them. The money devoted to club sports could be invested into a college fund or mutual fund at your local bank so you will have finances available to pay for college, and you will not have to depend on an athletic scholarship. The time you spend on the road could be used to develop a robust relationship with your children that would be more valuable than the time spent participating in club sports. Also, club sports are very similar to playing golf for adults only the wealthy can afford to play and network with other individuals of the same status. The only children who can participate in some club sports teams are those children who come from upper middle class families.

Children who live in low socioeconomic areas do not have the financial means to pay for their children to participate in club sports, some parents have resorted to GoFundMe accounts to help their children to particpate on these teams. Finally, the goal of youth sports was to keep children active in low socioeconomic areas by providing them with the opportunity to make friends and learn lifelong lessons to become good citizens in their communities, and somewhere along the way we have forgotten the true purpose of youth sports.

Raymond Tucker, D.S.M., CFSC, CSCS * D, EXOS – XPS, FMS, USATF, USAW is an Associate Professor of Kinesiology at the University of Houston Victoria in Victoria, TX. His research interested focus on leadership skills used by coaches and program design and measure of performance used in strength and conditioning.

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