Youth Sports is a Past-time for Some, and a Business For Many

Parents often imagine sports the way they experienced them as players.  When I was a kid, the business was not as crazy as it is today…by a long shot (and I grew up in Southern Indiana where basketball came before church).  Local sports teams were often left alone, and no one younger than 8th/9th grade was on anyone’s radar outside the area.  There wasn’t even a radar.

As a coach of some very talented kids, I am starting to see how much manipulation and hi-jinx actually occurs behind the scenes.  Nearly every game we play, or tournament we enter, an AAU coach or affiliate is approaching me about certain kids.  These conversations are sales-heavy, and always focus on how much development and exposure a specific kid will get.  The sales process starts with me as the current coach and confidante to the family.  It then slowly evolves into an ask for a “warm transfer” to the parents, and ends in an all out full-court press (excuse the metaphor) for complete commitment and allegiance.  Paid coaches with name recognition, uniforms, shoes, bags, and even trips to play are all part of the pitch.

Folks, I am talking about 5th graders here.  Let that sink in for a second.

So there is a lot that we can do.

  1. Work hard to keep perspective.  Your kids are not a commodity, and the percentage of scholarship athletes, much less professional athletes, is tiny.
  2. Kids in youth sports cannot handle the pressure that comes with pleasing an adult that is benefiting financially from that kids abilities, and shouldn’t be asked to.
  3. Keep clear boundaries for your kids regarding their chosen sports.  For example, driving 50 miles one direction for practices, or borrowing money to go to major tournaments,  send a clear message to kids that the world is now revolving around them and their abilities.
  4. Let them play multiple sports and change seasons.
  5. Let them choose non-traditional sports to play.
  6. As a parent, work hard to recognize that fear drives an amazing amount of your decisions, and talk with other parents for support.

#6 brings me to my last important learning in the next post…


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