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The Pressures Between Youth and It's Sports Programs

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The Pressures Between Youth and Its Sports Programs

Over the last two decades the growth of youth sports has reflected the popularity of professional sports in our society. Sporting events and news are available to the public twenty-four hours a day on television and radio: sports is an enormous industry. The outstanding popularity of the sports industry has greatly affected youth sports organizations. In order to supervise, teach and manage these athletes it is estimated 2.5 million coaches spend an average of eighty hours a season with them. The majority of these coaches volunteer for programs organized by the community, religious organizations, and recreational facilities. Without a national agency to coordinate sports programs, there exists great variation in the manner in which sponsoring agencies organize their teams, thus leaving plenty of opportunity for too much parental and coach control. Agencies have quickly moved American youth from unstructured play to highly organized competition. The structure of organized youth sports is the backbone for criticism and praise by professional athletes, physicians, and psychologists.

There are many that feel organized sports can be very beneficial and strongly support organized sports for youth. Some claim that sports aid in the development of social and interpersonal skills, health fitness and psychological well-being. Many feel that self-esteem and self-image can be greatly improved through sports. There are benefits that involve individual skill development, greater physical fitness, and higher self esteem. Other benefits include development of group cooperation teamwork and friendship-making skills. Psychologists around the country stress a need for an active life style to develop healthy self-images. Sports introduce children to healthy competition. A child's failure in competition helps them learn to win gracefully and lose with honor. It teaches youngsters that through perseverance and determination they can win next time and more importantly at whatever they choose. These are lessons that children will keep with them for the rest of their lives.

Some skeptics criticize the vital role of competition is hazardous to a child's psychological and emotional well-being. The critics of sports emphasize the lasting effects of competition and the negative influence of untrained coaches and parents that are too pushy. . There are a huge number of children playing sports, but due to burnout, stress, psychological trauma, and lowered self-esteem as many as seventy-three percent quit sports by the age of thirteen. Rick Wolff, a former professional baseball player and coach, claims there are several factors contributing to this phenomenon such as: parents and coaches putting excessive pressure on children, specialization in one sport, over competitiveness, anxiety and loss of interest. This lack of interest may stem from the fact that they are cut from a team, injured, or receive little playing time. Another reason for high dropout rates is the structure of the programs. The sports programs are set up by adults, run by adults, and maintained by adults with a precise date and time. Spontaneous play and creativity are taken out of the equation. Coaches are choosing who plays and who doesn't in an effort to win. A study found that 90% of all children would rather be on a losing team if they got to play. Alfie Kohn, author of "No Contest", claims that competition will lead to the downfall of sports.

"The trouble with a hyper competitive culture like ours is that we not only leave the mechanism intact but we create a network of reinforcement for winning at any cost. Cheating and the like can be said to be over determined -- called forth by both the intrinsic structure of competition and the societal attitude toward it. . ." says Alfie Kohn. (www.shareintl.org/archives/cooperation/co_nocontest.htm) Because the very core of sports to produce a winner and a loser, competition forces children to rely on external sources to feel good about themselves. It also causes youth to view others as obstacles to their personal success. Winners' gloat and the losers sulk, or quit. The majority will end up losers and this fosters self-doubt, thus a decrease in self esteem. Those that do win often rely on competing to define their self worth .It is stressed that children love to compete, but research tells a different story. An example of this is musical chairs. However, the game is structured so that children try to get all players on the fewest amount of chairs. Children are still learning skills and strategies, but there are no losers-only winners.

Many critics on the emphasis of sports in American youth are concerned not only with the structure of sports, but the negative stereotypes that many professional athletes portray. Professional athletes directly affect other sports programs. Many professional athletes are perfect examples of the influence and dangers of competition. Many professionals walk around with an aura of superiority. Their self-centeredness and egos derived from competition force them into a win-at-all-cost mentality. Mike Tyson bit an ear of an opponent, while John Macenroe screams, cusses, and is disrespectful of the linesman at every point. If sports teach children to lose gracefully, what message do these actions send? Professional athletes need to realize that they are in the spot light whether they like it or not. They need to understand that their behavior influences youth a great deal. Parents also need to teach children the difference between respecting and idolizing an individual for his/her athletic ability. We as a society need to understand that children may view the grandiosity of fame as a ticket to do as they please.

The controversies involved in the effects of sports on youth are very important due to the ever-expanding number of participants and programs. It is also important because sports programs are used in community and government projects to deter bad behavior and protect at risk youth. Over 300

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