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Helping Coaches And Parents Navigate The “$15 Billion Youth Sports Industry”


On August 23, TIME Magazine’s cover featured the lead story: “How Kids’ Sports Became A 15 Billion Dollar Industry.” An industry so large and complex may leave many coaches and parents wondering how they can best support their youth athletes. Here are quotes from the TIME Magazine article and resources to help guide you through each circumstance or issue in a rapidly growing youth sports environment.

Quote #1:

Already, Joey has a neon-ready nickname--Joey Baseball--and more than 24,000 followers on Instagram.

Joey is 10 years old. Baseball should not be a child’s sole identity. PCA Trainer Kelly Kratz talks about how we need to remember the big picture:

QUote #2:

A growing body of research shows that intense early specialization in a single sport increases the risk of injury, burnout and depression.

Yes, yes and yes. Research points to early specialization having negative effects on our youth. MLB Pitcher
Jake Odorizzi says its the worst thing you can do:

Boston Celtics Head Coach Brad Stevens shares that multi-sport participation makes better future athletes:

NFL quarterback Colt McCoy recommends kids play multiple sports and avoid specializing until later in life:

Quote #3:

In a survey of 296 NCAA Division I male and female athletes, UCLA researchers discovered that 88% played an average of two to three sports as children. Some kids who don't show talent at a young age are discouraged from ever participating in organized sports.

Talent at a young age? What about all the research pointing to the positive effects of a Growth Mindset? If you work hard, you can get better. 

Statistics on the chance to go pro show it's wise to focus on effort and life lessons, not just talent.

From The "Talent Trap," The Odds Of Going Pro, And Becoming Elite

Quote #4: 

I've seen parents spend a couple of hundred thousand dollars pursuing a college scholarship," says Travis Dorsch, founding director of the Families in Sport Lab at Utah State University.

A couple of hundred thousand dollars put toward college savings instead of private lessons could pay for a child’s tuition. Of course, some money needs to be spent on youth sports, but there has to be a balance.

Quote #5:

Only 2% of high school athletes go on to play at the top level of college sports, the NCAA's Division I.

Parents and coaches need to work to focus on the big picture in youth and high school sports. To strive to play in college or even professionally is 
a fine goal for a child, if the child is driving it. There are endless life lessons and teachable moments that can be leveraged by parents and coaches if they keep the big picture in mind.

Quote #6:

If I'm going to be investing all this time and money, we might as well win.

With such a high financial investment from parents in youth and high school sports, sometimes parents feel they should be getting a return on their “investment.” This can lead to parent-coach conflict when parents feel their child should be getting a certain amount of playing time.

Quote #7:

In some places, travel teams have supplanted high school squads as the priority for top players.

Playing for one’s high school team allows athletes to play for something bigger than themselves. Athletes who play on a high school team have the ability to be key role models on their high school campus. Read an excerpt from Jim Thompson’s book for high school sports parents about this dilemma: consider the pros and cons of club vs. high school sports. Two PCA National Advisory Board members and former US Soccer players give their takes:

Quote #8:

The more money families pour into youth sports, the more pressure their kids feel--and the less they enjoy and feel committed to their sport.

One of the key motivators for kids to stay in sports is enjoyment. If a child doesn’t enjoy practices and games, perhaps there is too much pressure and their risk of dropout increases. If you sense your child is losing enthusiasm for a sport, the key is to ask the right questions.

As coaches and parents, let’s make fun and enjoyment a priority, so our kids keep playing: 

Quote #9:

There's pressure, especially if your kids have some talent. You feel it a little more. But we want the kids to have fun and be with their friends. We have to take a step back and keep asking ourselves, What's the end goal?

This quote from a parent of 11 and 15-year-olds is something many parents have felt. If you are conflicted about at what level your child should be playing, consider using this 100 point exercise. You might have a few insights about what your child wants from the experience, as compared to what you want.

Quote #10:

In a study published in the May issue of American Journal of Sports Medicine, University of Wisconsin researchers found that young athletes who participated in their primary sport for more than eight months in a year were more likely to report overuse injuries.

ACL tears and Tommy John surgeries are on the rise. This doctor says 50% of all youth sports injuries are due to overuse and are therefore preventable.

Let us know what you think of the TIME article and the related PCA resources in the comments section that appears just below!

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