The Youth Sports Conundrum: Going from *Can we go and

Too Much of a Good Thing:
Realities of Youth Sports
Dylan Naeger
University of Louisville
April 4, 2014
Emphasis Placed on Athletics
• High school sports are the most popular extracurricular activity in
high schools, regardless of race, ethnicity, or gender (Eccles &
Barber, 1999; Eide & Ronan, 2001).
• The National Federation of State High School Associations
reported that approximately 55.1% of high school students
participated in athletics during 2009-2010 .
• A debate that has arisen at the high school level is whether or not
athletics have become a more compelling force than academics in
American schools.
• Across the nation, critics have questioned the overemphasis
placed on athletics in our high schools (Jenkins, Walker, Woodson,
& White, 1984; Pipho, 1988; & McGrath, 1984).
• A significant percentage of students regarded sports as more
important than the academic component of school (Fisher,
Juszczak, & Friedman, 1996).
Participation Numbers
• The National Federation of State High School
Associations in 2012-2013 stated that there were over
7.7 million high school student athletes in the U.S.
• “It is estimated that 27 million US youth between 6-18
years of age participate in team sports.” (DiFiori,
Benjamin, et. al., 2014)
• A 2008 National Council of Youth Sports survey found
60 million US children aged 6-18 participate in some
type of organized athletic program.
• Additionally, the study found that 44 million of the 60
million youth participate in more than one structured
sport program.
Positive Outcomes of
Youth Sports Participation
• Positive social and psychological benefits including:
• Increased self-esteem (Braddock, Royster, Winfield, & Hawkins, 1991;
Iso-Ahola & Hartfield, 1986; DiFiori, Benjamin, et. al, 2014)
• Development of life skills (Dubas & Snider, 1993)
• Increased communication among family members (Abbott, Sutton,
Jackson, & Logan, 1976)
• Decreased involvement in risky behaviors/activities (Collingwood,
Sunderlin, & Kohl, 1994)
• Increased academic success (Hanks & Eckland, 1976; Posner & Vandell,
1994; Bailey, 2006)
• Increased peer socialization and general fitness (DiFiori, Benjamin, et. al,
• Create positive environments for personal and interpersonal
development (Larson, 2000)
• Participation can help the likelihood of lifetime participation in sports
and physical activities (Beets & Pitetti, 2005)
Competitiveness of Youth Sports
Is it Good for the game?
• Value of Teamwork
• Learning New Physical
• Rewards of Hard Work
• Promotion of Self
• Time Management
Youth Involvement:
Paying the Price?
• High Rates of Dropout
• Injuries
• Eating Disorders
• Performance Enhancing
Negative Consequences of
Youth Sports Participation
• Some of the negative results of youth sports
participation include:
• Increased alcohol use (Jerry-Szpak & Brown,
• Increased use of other substances (Collingwood,
Reynolds, Kohl, Smith, & Sloan, 1991)
• An emphasis being placed on competitive success
has caused more youth to begin high intensity
training at younger ages, which can lead to both
overuse injuries and burnout (DiFiori, Benjamin,
et. al, 2014)
Overuse Injuries Defined
• “Overuse injuries are a consequence of
repeated micro-trauma in a tendon, muscle,
or bone associated with chronic repetition of
specific sport activities-tennis serving,
baseball pitching, gymnastic routines, running,
and shoulder action in swimming, for
example.” (American Academy of Pediatrics,
Council of Sports Medicine and Fitness, 2007)
What Age Before the Child is Too
Reality Check Necessary
Realistic Expectations
Unattainable Expectations
Reasons Athletes Drop Out of Sport
Lack of necessary skills for the activity
Limited opportunities to play (Playing time)
Not allowed to play desired position
Team cuts
Lack of control over own games
Lack of intrinsic motivation
Changing interests (Another sport or activity)
Pressure from parents and coaches to win
Lack of positive reinforcement
Lack of enjoyment
Parental Involvement
• Allowing Children to
Try New Things
• Sacrifices Made by
• Helping Children
Reach Their Full
Crossing the Boundary
• Living in Their Child’s
• Dreams of Pro Sports
• Improper Training
• Out of Control Parents
Aspirations of Turning Pro
• Fisher et al. (1996) found that many high school athletes
believed that they would likely receive a college athletic
scholarship. Specifically, 52% of the males surveyed and
20% of the females.
• NCAA conducted a survey to determine the number of
high school athletes who go on to compete at the
college level and then the pro level. In 2004, 983,000
students participated in high school football in U.S. Only
56,000 of these individuals went on to play college
football and just 0.9% of the 983,000 students ended up
making it to the professional level. Same held true for
other sports as well: 0.03% in basketball, 0.05% in
baseball, and 0.08% in men’s soccer (Knox, 2007).
Winning at All Costs
• Enormous Time
• Absence of Fun
• Overly Competitive
Coaches and Parents
• Emergence of Lower
Moral Standards
Does it help youth sports?
• Reaching Elite Status
• College Athletic
All Part of the Equation
Are Youth Sports Out of Control?
Symptoms of Burnout
Increased muscle soreness
Increased sleep loss
Decreased self-esteem
Increased heart rate and blood pressure
Increased occurrence to both cold and allergy issues
Decreased body weight
Decreased libido and appetite
Increased mood disturbances
Increased perception of physical, mental, & emotional
• Negative changes in the way one interacts with others
Reasons Athletes Burnout in Sports
Overuse and fatigue
Recurrent injuries
Poorly qualified coaches
Conflicts in values
Overemphasis on winning
Loss of intrinsic motivation
Changing interests
Demand for improved performance
Focusing on fun will help the children play better
Youth who are controlled by their fear of failure will play tentatively
Focus on what the child did well during the game
Help them “Let go of” mistakes
Be careful what you are saying before, during, and after to the children
Understand what makes sports fun for the child and then support that
Never force a child to participate in an activity but encourage the activity if
it seems a correct fit for the child
If a child is not connecting with a particular sport, then allow them to
choose a different activity that is a better fit
Remember that children’s interests vary and may be different than yours
By making changes to the way adults view youth sports, there is a better
chance children will enjoy themselves and develop a love for the game
Encourage good sportsmanship by demonstrating positive support for all
players, including the opponents
Defining Competition
• The word “compete” comes from the Latin words
“com” and “petere”, which mean together and
seeking respectively.
• Thus, the true definition of competition is seeking
together where your opponent is your partner,
not your enemy.
• The better your opponent performs, then the
more likely you will display peak performance.
• The greater the challenge the better the
opportunity for you to go beyond your limits.
Teaching Success/Failure
• Encourage children to challenge themselves and
attempt to continually improve.
• Teach children winning in sports is about doing
the best you can do, which is separate from the
outcome of the game or your opponent.
• One of the main purposes of youth sports is for
the child to develop skill acquisition and mastery.
• If adults define success and failure in terms of
winning and losing, then we are promoting a
dangerous game.
Maintaining the Fire
• The environment in which sport
participation occurs, either
intensely competitive or
recreational, is neither positive
or negative by itself. The
environment along with the
people involved with the sport
experience determine the
outcomes (Danish, Petitpas, &
Hale, 1990).
• Thank you for your attention and interest in this
• If you have future questions or would like more
information, feel free to contact me at:
Dylan Naeger
HSS Department
University of Louisville
Crawford Gym, Room 112
Louisville, KY 40292
[email protected]

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