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Pee Wee pressure put on too early

The Southerner

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By Kelly Scollard

My little cousin is in second grade.  He is 7 years old and has already washed out of the sport of soccer for good.

You see, the third grade marks the start of elite travel teams separated into A and B squads.  It’s complete with try-outs, evaluations and the corresponding heartbreak and disappointment.  To try to get a leg-up for their children in the selection process, many of the second grade parents have collectively hired personal trainers to condition their 7 year olds.

It made me sick to hear of this encroaching societal norm.   Have youth sports really gotten so intense that you can’t make the team if you don’t sign up to bench press in the off season as an elementary-schooler?   Kids that age should be focused on having fun, but long practice hours and intense coaches deeply impacting their small bodies and minds are sucking the fun from sports.

The high level of competition so early leaves hardly any room for experimentation or exploration among sports.  It discourages kids from trying new things and broadening their horizons.  Twenty years ago, it was typical for a 9 year old to be playing four or five sports a year.  Nine year olds now are conflicted with the decision of which sole sport they want to pursue as a specialty. Gone are the days of several sports.   If you take a season off of baseball to play football, there’s no way you can compete in spring with the kids who have been playing year round.  You find yourself falling behind in both sports.  This forced selection is limiting the potential and abilities of athletes.  It has also proven to be a source of anxiety, depression and injuries in young kids.   These prepubescent children are being made to make an uninformed decision that determines their entire athletic future, God forbid they change their minds.

Youth sports used to be a welcoming home to all kids, athletes and non-athletes alike.  Gradually the heavy-breathers and generally uninterested kids would filter themselves out and the teams would grow more competitive as they neared middle and high school.   The same process occurs now, but faster and earlier, discouraging some kids from playing at all.  They’re missing out on important experiences and life lessons you can gain only from sports and teamwork.

Long gone are the carefree days of childhood filled with lazy playground pick-up games.   They’ve been replaced by high stakes, stressful teams and organizations that have murdered the innocent fun of youth sports.  With the way we’re headed we’ll soon be determining a child’s sport specialization by how they play duck-duck-goose in daycare.

 

 

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Pee Wee pressure put on too early