Post ID: 876

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Happy Valentine’s Day and President’s Weekend to you all!!! I hope you are enjoying this beautiful long weekend.

 

I love this quote from Abraham Lincoln in honor of President’s Day weekend. It really sums up my feelings regarding everything that has gone bad in the world of youth sports. I know it is not all bad, but I have to admit, as a trainer, coach, and parent I cannot help but think we are doing our kids a disservice by not taking back youth sports as a fun, engaging way to build character and skill, learn about competition, failure, and success in a way that builds character and resiliency. Instead, the focus has switched to money and winning, because somehow winning when you are 10, 11, and 12 is important enough to drive more $$ into the programs.

 

I remember when Madeline Levine went on tour after the release of her first book, “The Price of Privilege”. I went to see her speak at Hillview Middle School and was blown away as I have been every time I have seen her since. I do remember that her stance on club sports was a resounding “NO”. So, a couple of years later when I went to a parent ed talk by my friend, Jim Lobdell, also one of the founders of Challenge Success at Stanford, my ears perked up when asked the question, “how do you feel about club sports?” His response was not as strong as Madeline’s, but more in line with you need to figure out what is best for your kid and your family. Club sports have taken over our youth sports and parents have fallen right in line with the notion that if your kid does not start playing their travel team early, then they will not have a future in their sport (i.e., play in high school or college).

 

One of my friends has a son who is way off the charts in height. By the time he was four years old, he looked like he was six. The thing is, if you look like you are six, then everyone expects you to behave like you are six. For those of you who have not have the experience of raising or teaching four and six year olds, let’s just say very few four year olds are capable of behaving like six year olds. Nor should they be expected to behave like 6 year olds. Kids should be expected to rise to the responsibility that their age allows. So why are we expecting 10, 11, and 12 year olds to rise to the responsibility and skill expectations as high schoolers. Because, youth sports have become more about winning and money than about the kids.

 

The focus on winning and money represents the shadow and the growth of the tree gets ignored. In my opinion, if you focus on growing a beautiful tree, you should not have to worry about the shadow because the shadow will be a reflection of the true growth and beauty of the tree. Kids need to be responsible for what they can control at their current age. For a 12 year old, this means his or her attitude and how much effort he or she gives at each practice and game. This also includes the way he or she treats fellow teammates and coaches. But last I checked, most 10, 11, and 12 year olds do not have their own Uber accounts or private drivers making sure they get to practice on time. Parents are doing the best they can with all they have on their plates. I have heard too many stories of humiliation by coaches when kids are a few minutes late. If a coach cannot run an effective practice with a late kid, then the coach needs to rethink how they run their practices. High School kids are different, they can be held accountable for being on time.

 

Kids need to learn how to be responsible for the things they can control. They need to fall down, lose, fail, whatever you want to call it, they need to figure out how to dust themselves off, get back up and figure out how to do better next time. They need to be called out when they are disrespectful to their coaches or fellow teammates, even if they are the best player on the team. This you see builds character. But focusing on winning and making the kids responsible for things outside of their control does not build character at all, it just distorts what is really important. Don’t get me wrong, I also enjoy winning as much as the next competitive person. But losing site of the importance of character and life’s lessons to focus on winning at such young ages is not developmentally beneficial to the kids.

 

As more and more research comes out to support the need for kids to rotate sports throughout the year to build stronger, healthier tissues, I also hope we can take back the building of our kids character as just as important to the notion of sport as skill or winning. Whatever our kids chose as their extracurricular activities, the outcome should not be more important than the process. The process is what builds character.

 

There are no M, W, F classes at Stanford Hills or Thursday track class at Stanford this week. The T/TH 6am class at Woodland is still on!

I hope you have a fantastic week!
Cheers!
Stella