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Elite + Expensive Travel Clubs Now Hurting Youth Sports

A few days ago, WCCO, a news station based out of Minneapolis, Minnesota, reported about the dangers of competitive travel athletics. Many families revealed that they often pay over 10,000 dollars a year to make sure their athlete plays their sport at the “highest” level. As always, we run into situations that ask: who is this sport for? The parent or the athlete? And, in some cases, young athletes end up burning out of their favorite sport because of constant activity or parental pressures. Generally speaking, this is not new information, especially for those who have read our blog before, but this article from WCCO actually introduces a new wrinkle: elite travel clubs hurt everybody else.

“In Minnesota, the shift has been dramatic. As an example, according to Dan Klinkhammer, the executive director of Minnesota Youth Athletic Services, there were 23 teams at the first MYAS traveling basketball state tournament in 1991. This spring, there were more than 1,400. And over that same period of time, Minneapolis Parks and Rec has seen its total number of teams across all sports drop 22 percent, according to athletic and aquatics director Mimi Kalb. In just the last six years, they’ve lost 600 kids.”

These kids, feeling unimportant or not good enough, end up quitting. Ultimately, sports are supposed to be for everybody, but what happens when they aren’t anymore? What should we as a community do when recreational players are no longer allowed to participate at young age because the self-created worth and desire to chase “elite” level athletics? At some point, the whole model is going to need a revamp or the only youth sports teams will be the eight year-olds that are getting scouted by colleges as soon as they can walk. In this situation, nobody wins.

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