Are Youth Sports Becoming Too Extreme?

Do you think that youth sports are getting too intense? Is the level of competition no longer safe for children? Are young athletes being put in danger by the competition, aggressiveness, and intensity of sports? Every day, kids are being pushed beyond their emotional and physical limits by coaches, parents, and even fans. The level of intensity of sports has become so extreme that they are causing mental and physical exhaustion.

Young athletes have also become increasingly more aggressive. Some of the biggest problems are over-enthusiastic coaches and parents pushing a win-at-all-costs attitude. However, it is kids who are paying the price with sports-related injuries occurring at younger ages and practices cutting into family time.

According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, sports injuries are the number one reason for emergency room visits among kids. Over 448,000 football-related injuries to youths under 15 are treated in hospitals, doctors’ offices, clinics, ambulatory surgery centers and emergency rooms annually.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has reported that millions of children suffering sports-related injuries could have lasting effects on the bodies of young athletes.

Each year, between 30 million and 45 million American kids participate in some form of athletics. Not only are children joining competitive leagues at younger ages compared to before, more and more of them are being encouraged by overzealous parents or coaches to specialize and train intensively in only one sport.

Former NBA player Bob Bigelow, says that the belief has become: “Getting better means training younger, training harder, training more.”

“What we’re seeing is the ‘professionalization’ of youth sports,” says Daniel Gould, Ph.D., director of the Institute for the Study of Youth Sports at Michigan State University.

“Coaches tend to over-train the athletes,” said Baldini, Chairman of the Kinesiology department at California State University, Sacramento. “When you’re in a multi-sport situation, you have more than one coach trying to over-train you.”

He has observed over the past generation that training and playing seasons have been lengthened resulting in most competitive sports requiring year-round training which increases the risk of injury. “There was an off-season,” he said. “But now, younger athletes are training harder and at an earlier age.”

Many people disagree that youth sports are too competitive or have become too extreme. They argue that the pros of being part of a competitive, athletic team outweigh the cons. Sports teach kids the value of camaraderie and hard work. They get their much needed physical activity.

They discover their self-worth and gain confidence.

And if there is anyone to blame for why kids are becoming increasingly aggressive and are now more prone to injury, it would be a sports program that does not have the children’s best interest at heart, coaches who are too competitive, and parents who push their kids too hard.