After reflecting on my blog from a few weeks ago about how beneficial athletics has been for me, I want to also take the time to write about how it can not be beneficial for some. “WHAT” you say? Here’s my take on the faults of today’s youth athletic system and why it’s toxic to some kids.

The aspects of playing sports that are the most beneficial have little to do with winning or losing and more to do with the development of a strong skill set built on the basis of initiative. The concepts I capitalized on a few weeks ago were as follows: time management, teamwork, flexibility, pressure management, self-discipline, and performance. These ideas are completely pointless if parents dictating their kid’s role on the team, instead of the player. Here’s my two key pieces of advice as someone in the middle (neither parent nor player):

Don’t complain to the coach if your kid isn’t playing. If you or your child feel they aren’t playing enough, encourage your child to approach his or her coach and ask what they can work on to ensure they play more often. This teaches them to importance of advocating for themselves, while still learning how to appropriately address issues that are hard to talk about. It also instills in them the concept that success comes with hard work, and some individuals have to work harder than others. Last time I checked, parents aren’t on the job with their kids every day to fight their battles as adults. The sooner they learn how to effectively address these topics, the better off they will be in the workforce.

Further to this point, encourage your child to pull the coach to the side for a one on one conversation about what’s going on. This teaches kids typical conversation skills and how to address others and have effective, meaningful conversations. This also cuts down the potential for miscommunication or misunderstanding.

Refrain from talking bad about their teammates. Teamwork is something that we encounter in all aspects of life: teams, group projects, marriage, and jobs. Not every individual they encounter may be the easiest to work with or at the level they are, but that doesn’t give anyone the right to treat them as any less of a person. Everyone has bad days and fights their own battles, it is important to teach kids to take a walk in someone else’s shoes. Maybe Johnny didn’t play his best today, but that doesn’t mean it’s okay to set a negative example for children about how to treat others. The most effective groups work together and lift each other up; the results will be much more rewarding if they can celebrate as a team instead of individually.

The important part to remember about this concept is that, for example, everyone on the football team gets a ring when they win the national championship. Jalen Hurts played the majority of the season as the University of Alabama’s first string quarterback. In the 2018 National Championship game he struggled, and coach Nick Saban switched Hurts out for their second string quarterback, Tua Tagovailoa, who played the game of his life and led the Crimson Tide to a win over the Georgia Bulldogs. Both of those players received a championship ring because they both played essential roles in the overall success of the season. It’s all about the journey, and teams are comprised of well over one person.

The youth sports culture has evolved into something much more intense than it used to be, and that can contribute to the amount of kids that don’t show a desire to be active or play sports. Sports aren’t for everyone, but it’s important that kids begin to learn the important concepts of team work and work ethic at a young age. Most kids don’t play sports for the rest of their life, but there are still so many important concepts that can be learned by those that don’t have that luxury. Parents that make these calls and input for their child aren’t giving them the opportunity to learn those concepts and as a result, this can give the child the wrong idea about what sports and collaboration in general are about. As a parent, kids are always watching; be sure you set an appropriate example so they can be successful in all things that life throws at them!