On October 10th, Huffington Post posted an article that helped summarize the findings of Dr. Chris Stankovich, a sports psychologist, who is focused on youth sports and their effects on the development of children. There is an exceptionally interesting keyword at the crux of the research: burnout. This topic is an important issue for us at CoachUp, and the article’s highlights are absolute must-reads for anybody that has a child in youth sports today.
For quite some time, athletes have become burnt out thanks to, as Stankovich puts it, “our country’s great love of sports” and an increasing number of families using them as a vehicle for free education. But Stankovich puts forth a third cause of resentment: the overbearing parent figure. These parents get confused with the “more is better” mantra and push their children to play around the clock. Parents can often live vicariously through the success of their children and can seriously damage their child’s love for the game and other important developmental characteristics like self-assuredness. This style of sports parenting should be avoided at all costs.
Ken Reed, the author of the Huffington Post article, realizes that although this isn't a new issue, overbearing parents have definitely gotten worse in recent memory:
"The number of incidents of physical violence and verbal abuse at youth sporting events has increased significantly in the last decade. According to the National Alliance for Youth Sports (NAYS), approximately 15% of youth sports games played today involve a confrontation between parents, between parents and officials, between parents and coaches, or between coaches and officials. That's a jump from 5% a decade ago."
This is an alarming factor, undoubtedly, so what can we do about it? Reed has collected the numbers behind startling NCAA research that should serve as a great reality check for those fantastically dreaming parents out there. For example, high school seniors eventually drafted by an NBA team? Just three in 10,000; or, 0.03% -- so, before you get excited about your child's forty-point game, remember that it's far from a professional guarantee.
Ultimately, it's in our hands to help appropriately mold the next generation of athletes. Athletics can serve so many purposes in the healthy development of a child; they can teach things like teamwork, leadership, and sportsmanship. If your athlete desires to push their game to the next level, they'll let you know. But, if their interests lie elsewhere, perhaps it's time to put down the pom-poms and whistles, get a fresh perspective, and help make sure your athlete is having fun on the field.
Huffington Post -- Youth Sports Burnout Driven by Achievement by Proxy Syndrome