Time out

Lisa Paine — Sports Editor

Lisa Paine — Sports Editor

Parents and coaches, take note. Your young sports prodigys aren’t really enjoying what they are doing.

Youngsters ages eight-14 were polled by i9 Sports, an organization based in Tampa, Flor. that prides itself on being the nation’s first and fastest growing youth sports franchise.

What the kids revealed is pretty eye opening and should give every coach and parent pause to step back and reconsider just what they have their kids signed up for and, more importantly, why.

An alarming 84 percent of the kids reported wanting to quit their sport and of those, one-third said they wished their parents weren’t watching. When prodded as to why, the same 84 percent said they sometimes wish they had more fun while playing sports and 84 percent also noted that at one time they had quit or had wanted to quit a team. Why? Forty-seven percent said because “it wasn’t any fun”, 29 percent said teammates were mean, 23 percent said that too many practices interfered with their other activities. Thirty-one percent alarmingly said they wished the adults weren’t watching their games. Now pay attention, it’s not because they were embarrassed, but because mostly the adults yell too much, are too distracting, make the players nervous and put unwanted pressure on them to play better and win rather than just have fun.

Hmm… Where have I heard that before? Oh, right, on the sidelines at many of the area youth events. And, even on our high school playing fields. If you could hear what some of your kids are saying about you and your histrionics while they are simply trying to play sports, you would blush with embarrassment.

This survey was put forth to 300 kids and when asked what their number one reason for playing sports was, 56 percent said “to have fun”. When asked if it made them feel worse if their team lost, surprisingly, 63 percent said they still had fun.

There is still an unhealthy and disturbing trend that continues, because the survey also showed that 45 percent of kids said they would rather play video games than sports with a whopping 74 percent saying it’s more fun than sports. Another 28 percent said sports are simply too competitive, 20 percent were unhappy because their coach didn’t let them play as much as they would have wanted, and 17 percent said the pressure was just too much.

Fighting was a common theme with one in five kids saying they witnessed a physical fight between teammates or opponents, 59 percent admitted to having been in a verbal confrontation with players and 36 percent noted verbal fights between parents upset them. The kids themselves were not without blame, either, with 61 percent noting that they or a teammate had been called unkind names such as loser, midget, four eyes, lazy and fat, slow poke and worse by others. One child reported how another had pushed their head under the water at a water fountain. Unkind words also came from the other teams kids or coaches, a parent, teachers or the “team mom.” Nice.

In all, i9 says it’s high time for Americans to take a time out and reevaluate the increasingly cutthroat nature of youth sports. “We forget sports are teaching tools for life,” said Brian Sanders, COO and President of i9 Sports, which has 500,00 members at 275 locations in 26 states. “Kids are learning behaviors picked up by teammates, coaches and parents. We need to be better teachers. We need to let kids have fun.”

It’s high time to stop, ask your kids what THEY really want from their sports experience, then sit down and just let them play. No commentary from the sidelines, no shouting and no name calling, everyone. Let them play stress and worry free.

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