EDITORIAL: Keeping the fun in youth sports

Worldwide drop in enrolment in sports is the fault of adult behaviour

There’s a fine line between wanting our children to succeed and pushing them too hard at activities.

There is certainly nothing wrong with encouraging kids to do their best. There is nothing wrong with wanting to win or celebrating success that is defined in that way.

But as local filmmaker Atlee James found out conducting interviews with sports leaders across North America and overseas for his documentary on the subject (see story page 19, April 26, 2019 edition of The Progress), there is something rotten with the state of youth sport.

The problem of “hockey parents” isn’t a new one. There are belligerent and over-bearing mothers and fathers who get so worked up in games they end up yelling at young athletes and teenage referees, even fighting with one another in the stands.

There are two inter-related problems here. One is about parents expressing anger in the middle of sporting events that are supposed to be fun. The other is about the pressure imposed on children before and after games.

That pressure can stem from a desire to funnel kids into elite sports, maybe on to university. The Olympics? Pro sports?

But those latter goals are pipe dreams akin to winning the lottery. More importantly, they aren’t necessarily the dreams of our children. They are our dreams, the dreams of adults who may have once reached a certain level of sport and gone no further.

It’s understandable we want more success for our children than we had for ourselves.

The counter-intuitive problem with this way of dealing with kids in sport is it’s having the opposite effect.

Kids are dropping out because sport just isn’t fun anymore.

It’s time for moms and dads across the world to chill out and just toss a ball or pass a puck or paddle a canoe for fun.

Just for fun.

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