July 22, 2018
John Smoltz said it best in his MLB Hall of Fame Induction Speech this past week when he brilliantly took advantage of the platform he was given in front of a national audience to speak directly to millions of parents about a growing epidemic in youth sports. As I note throughout my guidebook on character in sports, Character Loves Company, it is a shame that our youth in America are walking away from athletics at an early age, never to return again. A few of the major reasons for this mass exodus out of sports are: Increasing rates of injury due to overuse or incorrect mechanics, burnout, parental pressures, and boredom. Studies in the field of youth and amateur athletics clearly articulate the many advantages of our youth participating in multiple sports versus specializing in just one (Cote, et al., 2007 & 2009; Burgess & Naughton, 2010; Subotnik, Olszewski-Kubilius, & Worrell, 2011; & Horton 2012).
In his MLB Hall of Fame induction speech, the great Smoltz is not only referring to the sport of baseball, but rather all sports and we should be listening:
“I want to encourage all the families and parents out there to understand that this is not normal to have a surgery at 14 and 15 years old. That you have time. That baseball’s not a year-round sport. That you have an opportunity to be athletic and play other sports.”
The current inclination towards the win-at-all-costs approach and the ego-driven rush to “10,000 hours” of individual training has displaced the quest to build character through the challenge and enjoyment of sport participation. Many kids are walking away from sports prematurely due to the heavy pressures from parents and coaches and the excessive overtraining, which strip sports of their fun and enjoyment (Cote & Fraser-Thomas, 2008; & Jayanthi, 2012).
For the sake of our rising generations, it is time to wake up!
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