The State of Youth Sports

The State of Youth Sports

Let’s get real about the state of youth sports. From the sidelines to the intense recruitment process, there’s much more going on than just the game. Whether you’re a parent, coach, or young athlete, there are some crucial things to remember.

The sidelines. We’ve all seen those parents who think they’re helping by shouting instructions or criticisms from the stands. Here’s the deal: parents need to be self-aware. Before you say something, ask yourself, “Is this about me or my kid?” That car ride home after the game is a big deal. Instead of grilling them about a missed shot or a bad play, think about how your words might affect them. Are you disappointed for them or yourself?

Expectations. Parents often have sky-high hopes, dreaming of college scholarships and pro careers for their kids. But that pressure can be overwhelming. It’s important to support your kids without pushing your own dreams onto them. Let your child’s love for the game be the guide, not the potential for future glory.

Mental health is a huge piece of the puzzle. The grind of training, the stress of competition, and dealing with injuries can all take a toll. Being aware of your mental state and having strategies to cope is crucial. Emotions don’t have to be a barrier to performance—they can actually help if managed well.

Now, let’s get real about the glamour of professional sports. Kids often see the highlights and think it’s all glitz and glory. But being a good athlete is as much about character as skill. How you treat people, your work ethic, and your emotional intelligence are what set you apart.

Coaches play a pivotal role in this journey. They should be modeling the behavior they want to see in their athletes, helping them grow into the best versions of themselves both on and off the field. It’s about more than just teaching sports skills—it’s about life skills.

Back to the sidelines. Parent conduct is crucial. We’ve all seen it: parents berating referees, shouting at coaches, or giving their kids a hard time after a game. This kind of behavior embarrasses the kids and undermines the coaches. It’s important for parents to stay in their lane. Let the coaches coach, and let the kids play. Your job is to support your child, not to manage their sports career.

Here’s a story to drive the point home. Lisa Bonta Sumii (a sports mental health therapist) shared a story about her daughter, who started playing competitive softball late and was initially the worst player on the team. But her effort and coachability stood out. Fast forward, and now she’s being recruited to play collegiate softball. The journey was tough, but her persistence and love for the game made the difference. Youth sports should be about enjoying the game, developing as a person, and having fun. It’s not just about winning or going pro.

In the end, youth sports should be a space where kids can develop a love for movement, teamwork, and personal growth. It’s about helping them become not just great athletes but great people.

So, next time you’re at your kid’s game, take a step back. Remember, it’s their game, their experience. Let them enjoy it. Support them, cheer them on, and let them navigate their own journey (with your support). Youth sports are about more than just the score—they’re about building character and lifelong skills.

Summary of the State of Youth Sports

Parental Conduct in Youth Sports

  • Importance of self-awareness for parents
  • Encouraging positive support rather than criticism
  • Impact of post-game interactions on children

Expectations and Pressure in Youth Sports

  • Managing parents’ dreams of scholarships and pro careers
  • Supporting children’s genuine love for the game
  • Avoiding the imposition of parents’ aspirations on kids

Mental Health and Coaching

  • Stress from training, competition, and injuries
  • Importance of mental health awareness and coping strategies
  • Positive role of emotions in performance
  • Coaches as role models
  • Focus on developing life skills alongside sports skills
  • Positive influence on athletes’ personal growth

For more on the state of youth sports, listen to this podcast episode featuring Lisa Bonta Sumii.

More related content:

Mississippi State University + Dr. James Barnes | Education, Youth Sports, and Marketing Insight

The Mental Game in Sports with Aren Ulmer

SE33 | Derek Bylsma | Mental Health in Youth Sports

And even more:

5 Huge Problems with Youth Sports in the US

We Are Destroying America’s Youth Athletes

Dark Side of Youth Sports