Most of us deeply underestimate the youth sports culture. Youth sports has mostly stopped being simple. Money has grown, the competition for spots on teams has intensified, social status has been inextricably woven together with athletic achievement, and parents are scared.
Many see athletics as a way to keep kids on the straight and narrow path, and teach kids important life lessons they don’t get at home or in school. Others see it as an way to give their kids opportunities they will never be able to provide on their own. And still others look at the social status of being “on the team” as the best or last guarantee that their kids will find acceptance in the world.
I don’t pretend to know answers to these challenges. This is a complex social system wrapped around fears, hopes, dreams, money, and status that exist in relation to each other. There is not a simple answer, but I have come to understand the complexion of the system much better and can empathize with the parents, coaches, and kids inside it.
As a coach, I used to think parents had lost their minds. As a parent, I thought coaches were inept. Everyone was acting so irrationally! Well, I’ve learned that much of this behavior is completely rational based on the system we are all in. “Youth Sports” is perfectly designed to yield the outcomes we are getting. Judgement will not help, but honesty and open dialog can. I can also work diligently to make it easier on those I encounter. I hope this is a start.