We need to make a decision people. Yes, all of us grown-up-making-decisions-paying-registration-for-youth-sports people…we need to decide about something I believe may be the most critical decision for the future of youth sports.
What do we want for our investment?
Do we want youth sports to work as an engine for education or do we want our hard-earned dollars, volunteer hours and time commitment to result in a fun, entertaining experience for families and kids?
At the very least we have to decide what is more important.
Professional and college athletics are expected to provide high levels of entertainment in this country. Should youth sports provide the same?
It’s not that education can’t be fun and it’s not impossible for kids to learn something from an entertaining experience, but the lack of decision about what youth sports is supposed to accomplish is creating an environment that doesn’t effectively do either.
So here is a completely unscientific description of the differences between the educational and the entertainment model of youth sports.
In an educational model:
- It is enough to notice small improvements.
- There is a longterm goal in mind.
- EVERY moment a child is involved with a youth sports experience, is a learning moment.
- Wins are great, but learning is better.
- The experience, improvement and education of EVERY child involved matters.
- Attention is paid to the lessons being taught on and off the field/court/ice and the end goal is education of the entire child and not just the physical aspects of competition.
- Parents and coaches parent and coach the children.
In the entertainment model:
- Scoreboard, record and overall season achievements are how success is measured.
- It is better to win NOW because there is no guarantee there will be a chance to play later.
- Pre-game drinking and mid-tournament partying is all part of the entertaining sports experience, it is just how the family enjoys the season.
- It is not worthwhile or fun unless the team wins and the athletes playing have great performances.
- The best players should play because the best players improve the chances of winning.
- The sport exists to produce the highest level of physical achievement possible.
- People attending are fans and can behave as such (including the entertaining berating of refs)
So, where do you fall on the spectrum of Educational or Entertainment in youth sports? Should there be a difference between youth and college/pro? Should there be two sorts of youth sports programming to satisfy the desires of families: an educational league and an entertainment league? In which league would you sign your kid up to play?
I’m not sure we can have our cake and eat it too.
Meagan Frank is the author of the Choosing to Grow series, a national speaker, athlete, coach, and mother of three. A 1997 graduate of Colorado College, Meagan was a four-year starter and senior captain on the Division I women’s soccer team and lettered in Division III women’s basketball. She has coached recreational, high school, elite, and college-level teams for both boys and girls.
Copyright 2015 Meagan Frank Choosing to Grow http://www.meaganfrank.com