Letter: Youth sports should be about having fun

To the editor:

There are two documentaries airing now that are must-sees for anyone involved in youth sports in the state of Rhode Island. The first one is a CPTV documentary called “Going, Going Gone…” that can be viewed on television or on-line at the CPTV website that chronicles the drastic change in youth sports over the past years. The other being an HBO documentary called “State of Play: Trophy Kids” that does the same. Try not to see a little of yourself or your communities in these documentaries, it’s impossible.

Having coached and refereed youth sports for over 30 years, 7 of which have involved my son and daughter, I’m finding it increasingly frustrating to find communities, organizations and coaches that model what in my mind youth sports should be. Fun.

The number one reason why children lose interest in sports is that sports stops being fun for them. That usually has something to do with parents, whether it be their own parents or parent coaches. If you’re watching your child from the bleachers, relax, your child is not going to play professional sports and you’re embarrassing them, please think about that.

For the parent coaches, this is not the NBA or world cup finals, it’s great that you’ve volunteered your time,  more parents need to do it but I do not want to see your child shoot the ball 100 times a game so he can score his 20 points. Distribute the ball and distribute the playing time to everyone. It’s not about winning. If winning is so important please consider taking your child and coaching talents outside mainstream youth sports and into an elite program.

I have also heard arguments from youth coaches on how important it is to win and how demoralizing it is for the children to lose but I don’t buy it. As parents and coaches you may remember a few years down the road that your fourth-graders lost the championship at your local YMCA, but I assure you, they will not.

Don’t get me wrong, children want to win but most importantly they want to play. Far too many youth organizations allow parent coaches to monopolize court time and field time for their child or their child’s friends during a season. Too many children who could benefit from court or field time become discouraged and drop out of youth sports.

Finally, unless your child had a tryout for a travel team (the politics I see in making these teams is a topic for another day) don’t allow parent coaches, organizations and communities to put your kids on the bench. Speak up. You are paying for the courts, fields, uniforms, etc. and until they’re older and are trying out for a team in high school, they deserve an equal chance to play and have fun.

Thomas White

Barrington

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