Playing little league baseball or joining your first soccer team when you were 9 years old used to be fun, entry level experiences for kids to be exposed to the fun of learning how to play a particular sport. You used to try a recreational league for a season and then if you wanted to, could try a different sport the next season. Youth sports have changed quite a bit in the past 20-30 years and now kids are starting to play organized team sports as young as 3 or 4 years old and picking a sport to specialize in and play year round by the ages of only 10 with special private coaching and using the best pitching machines and batting cages in the off season, for example. The level of intensity for youth sports is the same as it was for high school and even some college athletes 25 years ago and this is leading to a host of new problems.
One of the biggest changes is the age at which children are now signed up for sports. Years ago, the youngest age typically would be about 7 or 8 to try soccer and 10 or 11 to start basketball. Now it is 3 for soccer and 5 years old for basketball. Most of the kids at these young ages do not have the physical coordination or the attention span to be able to handle an hour long sports practice. Because of this, kids give up on a sport earlier because it was too hard for them.
Kids are also being told that they have to specialize and focus on one sport by the time they are 10 years old in order to get an athletic scholarship to college. This has increased stress related injuries in much younger kids as a result of overdoing it on their growing bodies. The overuse on the kids physically and mentally has created an entire generation of kids that totally burn out by the time they reach middle school or high school which is a real shame.
This more intense level of athletics at a younger age is also seen by the coaches and the parents too. There have been so many parents that got caught up in their children’s games or competitions that they cause problems with their inappropriate behaviors and have to be kicked out. Because of this, most schools and youth leagues now require parents to sign a contract for acting in a well mannered way. Coaching has also become much more intense for kids. In the past a parent would volunteer to coach and that would be it. Now parents are hiring private coaches and personal trainers to get their child to be even better than they are. The amount of money parents now spend on their children’s athletic pursuits is sky high.
Maybe, people will realize that kids need to be kids and do not need the physical or mental stress that is being put on them athletically by their coaches and parents.