What are your thoughts on travel youth sports teams?
As a high school coach and former college athlete I am blessed with the connections and resources that allow me to provide my children with opportunities to play, train and improve their skills without making significant time or financial commitments. But what if I was not in this position? As a coach but also a parent of student athletes I am on the fence. On one hand I want my athletes to improve their skills in the off-season, have the opportunity to hear another voice (hopefully a trained knowledgeable voice that reinforces good habits and fundamental skills), and just go out and play the game. **Gets on soapbox** But on the other hand I am legitimately bothered when club, AAU, travel, elite, or select teams interfere with the high school season, insist that their voice be louder than the high school coach, or influence the decisions of athletes with false promises and exaggerations of outcomes. ***Rant Ahead*** When you are missing high school basketball practice or even a game (yes a game, that happens) to play or practice club whatever that’s a problem. What happened to the value of your word and your commitment to your team? Where is loyalty and school spirit? Are the days gone when being proud to represent your school mattered? It seems that the tide has turned and high school athletics is no longer viewed as the best avenue for student athletes to get exposure to college coaches. Really this all makes my head spin. As a parent I like many others are left confused wondering what should I do? What is best for my kid? Am I robbing him/her from their one shot if I don’t take out a second mortgage and do this? And it should not be that way.
So here is some perspective….
- There are benefits to playing club sports. Mentioned earlier. But does the positive outweigh the negative? Have we even considered the negative because we are blinded and distracted by the shiny positives?
- Many of these coaches are paid (well) for what they do so if you are bringing a hefty check chances are they will tell you and your child what sounds good to keep you coming back…Its a business, a big billion dollar business. But don’t be fooled into thinking your child’s athletic ability has a monetary value. Just because you spend a lot does not mean your child will get that starting spot, lots of playing time, a college scholarship etc.
- Many of these coaches are not holding players accountable. As a society we have arrived at a place where if I don’t like something I will take my money and my talent somewhere else. There are so many “Elite” teams ready with open arms to accept kids and their baggage without even a question as to why they left the other program. And many programs that allow kids with talent to do as they please so they don’t leave.
- The amount of games played, time spent, and energy exerted on the madness that has become elite youth sports programs ( I keep using that term but many programs are elite in title only) do not take into consideration the social and emotional well being of your child. That is our job as the parent. Advocate for your child make sure you are putting them in situations that make them better people not just better athletes.
- Ask yourself is your child receiving valuable instruction or are they just attending a series of open gyms and then going and playing 50+ games in the summer leading to burn out and increased injuries from over training? Its no wonder when they get to their high school season they are less than enthused and board with defensive slides.
I am left wondering what am I missing? Should my son be flying to California one weekend only to fly to Florida the next? Am I hurting his chances of making it to the next level? My head hurts writing this blog thinking about it. Like myself so many parents I talk to already feel inadequate as parents period. We are in charge of little lives and up to a certain point responsible for guiding those lives with our wisdom. Many days I don’t feel wise at all just lost. But together with my wife we try to keep our eye on the prize. We help and support each other and do some checks from time to time to see if we are leading our littles in the right direction…Do they love God and seek him first?…check… Do they feel loved, provided for and protected by their family?…check…Are their academics in order?…check…Are they having fun and allowed to just be a kid?… sometimes. They don’t particularly like yard work or doing dishes…After all that anything else is icing on the cake. I have to remember it is not my job to raise an ELITE athlete. It is my job to raise God-fearing, self-assured, critical-thinking, resilient, mentally strong, honest, caring, dependable, passionate, independent, faithful grownups that make positive contributions to this world. That’s a tall order. And like I have said before if sports help me do that fine if not I am not willing to sacrifice my children to this youth sport world I can hardly recognize anymore. ***Rant over***
**Side note I don’t think all programs are bad I think most programs are bad. Please don’t feel the need to defend your program here I’m venting.
***Side side note I don’t know if what these programs are doing is wrong per se but it feels wrong and I trust myself so I’m going with…wrong.
****Side side side note do you see the number of question marks in this post that tells you how much I don’t know. Please share your thoughts by clicking comment under the title and answer some of these questions for me!