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YOUTH SPORTS & Unrealistic Expectations

By Jackie Burrell
Monday, March 10th, 2008 at 7:42 am in College Apps & Angst, Sports.

baseballIs your kid spending his childhood on the soccer field? Is your family’s summer a series of non-stop swim meets? There’s no doubt that youth sports have taken over family life. If your kid is playing year-round everything because he or she loves it, that’s one thing, but if it’s because you think there’s an athletic scholarship or professional sports glory waiting in his future, you need to read this morning’s New York Times story, “Athletic Scholarships: Expectations Lose to Reality.”

Parents sacrifice weekends and vacations to tournaments and specialty camps, spending thousands each year in this quest for the holy grail. But the expectations of parents and athletes can differ sharply from the financial and cultural realities of college athletics…

“People run themselves ragged to play on three teams at once so they could always reach the next level,” said Margaret Barry of Laurel, Md., whose daughter is a scholarship swimmer at the University of Delaware. “They’re going to be disappointed when they learn that if they’re very lucky, they will get a scholarship worth 15 percent of the $40,000 college bill. What’s that? $6,000?”

And what’s never discussed is the downside to playing college ball, track, swimming, etc. – the painfully early morning weight training, long practices and travel time. There’s a reason colleges routinely hire tutors for their star athletes.

It’s because those kids have trouble making it to class.

“Kids who have worked their whole life trying to get a scholarship think the hard part is over when they get the college money,” said Tim Poydenis, a senior at Villanova receiving $3,000 a year to play baseball. “They don’t know that it’s a whole new monster when you get here. Yes, all the hard work paid off. And now you have to work harder.”

The story closes with this comment from a college athlete:

“On every team I played on, every single person there thought for sure that they would play in college. I thought so, too. Just by the numbers, it’s completely unrealistic. And if I had it to do over, I would have skipped a practice every now and then to go to a concert or a movie with my friends. I missed out on a lot of things for soccer. I wish I could have some of that time back.”

Your thoughts?

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No Responses to “YOUTH SPORTS & Unrealistic Expectations”

  1. touchdowntim Says:

    O.K. Let me chime in here… I’m a parent of 3 and all my kids are being pressured by coaches and friends to make youth sports their only priority in life. For example in youth football they are being recruited to play in a league that requires they go to conditioning camp in the summer practice 5 days a week and they guarnantee no playing time for any child regardless of age. I’m talking ages 7-13! In other words you work your butt off make sacrifice after sacrifice and these morons at MAYAA can’t even figure out how to get the kids on the fiels for a couple plays? I have commentary on http://www.mayaayouthfootball.com for anyone interested in the details. What to you think I should do?

  2. Ari Soglin Says:

    To Touchdowntim: IMHO, kids that age are too young to sit and get only a couple plays a game. It’s supposed to be fun, and that isn’t. I understand the philosophy of competitive leagues as opposed to rec leagues, but a coach of a travel or select team should be helping every player on the roster grow — athletically and mentally. Still, what to do isn’t clear-cut because there’s the potential positive lesson of hard work paying off with playing time. I’ll say this: Don’t pressure your kids to play at that level; leave it up to them. If they do want to go for it, make sure they understand the possibility of sitting on the bench. Some kids might go for it for the wrong reasons — peer or sibling pressure, the prestige of making the travel team — but at least if they’re disappointed, it will be a hard lesson learned and not a reason to be angry at mom or dad.

  3. touchdowntim Says:

    Ari,

    Thank you for the thoughtful words of wisdom. You sound like someone who has some experience with this and I agree with your suggestion. I’ll take the advice and let the boys decide. I’m probably leaving the MAYAA league for another one nearby that follows the NFL’s 7 tenants to live by for youth football. One of which is that all kids should play and learn more than one position. It’s http://www.LUYAA.org Here is an interesting link to a youth football blog in our area that does a pretty good job of letting parents know what’s going on. The kinda stuff coaches would never share w/ you about youth football http://www.mayaayouthsports.com

  4. scaredofteammom Says:

    But there is a lot of pressure and fanatism among some parents out there. It’s like they build their whole life around it and expect others to do the same! I have my 8yo son in baseball for the fun of it, but I have found that some people really go to extremes. Just yesterday, I was attacked, insulted and yelled at by the team mom of my son’s team, the wife of the coach, simply because I asked for a calendar of practices so we could plan our weeks ahead of time and because I suggested that she took our input on what days we were available to work at the snack bar, instead of assigning days randomly and then saying we would have to pay $75 if we couldn’t do it that day. The woman took offense over that and showed up at the field, just to diss me right in front of the kids and the other parents, saying I was trying to tell her how to do her job. What a crazy woman! I took my son out that team and complained about her to the League. They agreed with me that she was way out of the line and helped me find a different team for my son. Now isn’t that fanatism over children’s baseball that was supposed to be fun for the kids, but what kid is going to have fun while watching his parents get yelled at and insulted by the people managing the team??

  5. Mayaa Mom Says:

    My son has played with MAYAA sports for 5 years he will be playing varsity this year. He’s played football, baseball and basketball, I have never gotten pressured or felt pressured by any coach or player to have my son play in any sport. He has learned from every coach he’s had. I grew up in Gaithersburg and was part of GSA (Gaithersburg Sports Association). I was thrilled to find that MAYAA is as close to if not better as a youth sports organization as GSA. I believe in MAYAA and am proud to a part of this organization and it’s beliefs. They have an outstanding Coaching staff. The conditioning camp is not mandatory…but it helps them get physically ready for the actual practices, it’s hard work but the rewards and the friendships last forever.

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