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We"ve Ruined Sports for Kids - The Curse of Athleticism or the Olympic Myth

By David Skuy

How much is too much?

When it comes to youth sports, it appears the answer is nothing is too much. The average professional hockey, basketball, or soccer player plays around 80 games a year - another 20 if he or she is on a championship team. Ten-year old kids often play the same number, along with practices and weekend tournaments.

So what's going on?

What's going on is that adults have stolen sports from kids. We"ve professionalized sports, organized the games we used to play in the schoolyard or on the streets for hours as kids. Instead of those endless games, parents drive their kids to league games and practices, where whistles and coaches tell kids what to do and how to do it. This goes on five, six, even seven times a week. Sure, a precious few go on to superstardom as professional athletes, but they're the one percent of the one percent. The rest burn out by 14.

Is it really necessary to travel hours every weekend to yet another tournament? Is that third practice a week really adding to a young person's enjoyment? Is there not something wrong about $50,000 budgets for 12-year old hockey teams?

More is not necessarily better. The magic number is three - one game and two practices a week. Until a kid is 13 or 14, that is enough of any one activity. Let them develop a number of interests - sports, reading, music, and maybe hanging out with friends once in a while. After that age, if the interest is still there, then it might be appropriate to let them focus totally on one thing.

We need to remember that sports are for kids - not for those watching from the sidelines. Professional athletes are paid millions to play 80 games a year; and our kids are paying a high cost for our obsession with organized sports.

About The Author
David Skuy is the author of Off the Crossbar, a sports novel for boys. He is also a noted lecturer, speaking to parents and kids about literacy and sports.

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