No. 388

It has often been said that, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. As this relates to organized youth sports in our nation, I believe you will agree there are some problems that need to be addressed. The sooner the better. While there have been many unfortunate incidents involving youth sports over the past several years, it really came to a head some time back when a hockey dad killed another hockey dad in one of our New England states. Let me be very clear here. In the vast majority of cases the problems are not caused by the kids, but rather by the parents. I started to say adults, but in many cases thats not true. This situation has inspired a new book titled, Just Let The Kids Play: How To Stop Other Adults From Ruining Your Childrens Fun and Success In Youth Sports.
This book gives parents a better look inside the organized system of youth sports (Health Communications, $12.95) and identifies what the authors, Bob Bigelow, Tom Moroney and Linda Hill, consider the true source of trouble that can ruin a sporting experience, from fights among adults to large numbers of children who quit sports at a young age. This book is meant to challenge many of the conventional ideas that can cause children to be denied equal access and a fair chance to succeed in what are supposed to be fun games.
From the front lines of youth sports battles innovative programs across America, the book gives specific ideas for change that parents and coaches can try in their communities, on their teams, or within their own families. It calls on adults to stop any misguided pursuit of sports talent at young ages, to eliminate elite teams before grade seven, and give all children a chance to develop, to enjoy themselves and, most of all, to play. While youth related sports problems vary from community to community based on attitudes, culture and a few dominant personalities, to go to your childrens or grandchildrens athletic events and have them disrupted by insensitive and unruly adults is something no one should have to tolerate.
Now, back to what I said in the beginning, An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. If you sense a problem in your community in that some of the organized youth sporting events are getting out of hand, there is help that you may or may not know about. There is a national organization formed back in March of 2001, based in Kingston, Rhode Island, called the Center For Sports Parenting that was formed to address problems like those I have been describing. This is a Web-based initiative that serves as an immediate and practical means to offer guidance to parents, coaches, educators, administrators, officials and other individuals involved in youth sports. Lets face it. In todays topsy-turvy world, many people need help to appropriately handle the psychological and physical challenges faced by young people participating in athletics.
The Center For Sports Parenting is chaired by Rick Wolff, nationally recognized sports parenting and performance enhancement expert. The CSP Web site ( HYPERLINK "" also offers personalized advice from a panel of more than 25 other respected experts in the fields of sports, psychology, coaching, health, nutrition and sports medicine. What I am going to say next may sound like a lot of double-talk, but please read it carefully. This organization was founded to meet two pressing needs for parents of young athletes everywhere. First, to provide immediate, practical and essential guidance and assistance in helping parents and others involved in youth sports cope with the psychological and physical challenges that accompany kids who play sports.
And secondly, in an effort to provide guidance and advice, the center is committed to investigating and researching the latest practices in the area of sports parenting, with special emphasis on the best methods of coaching, communication, motivation and athletic development. Now, thats all well and good and educators will relate to it, but from a practical standpoint, here is something on their Web site that made more sense to me than anything else. In light of the violence and unruly behavior of some parents, it may be time to require them to take a short course on sports parenting and get a certificate of completion before his or her child can play on a team.
In my opinion, based on what Ive observed, in most communities this extreme measure wont be necessary, but in some it may be. Do you know the situation in your community with regards to youth sports? Is this something your officials need to explore? The bottom line is this. It should be fun for the kids and not have unruly and disrespectful parents or other adults spoil it for them. Let me know what you think. (Jim Davidson is a motivational speaker and syndicated columnist. You may contact him at 2 Bentley Drive, Conway, AR 72034.)