I would like to take a moment and surgically dissect the article I have posted to the right. The author correctly brings attention to $$$ money $$$ being a major factor in the demise of youth sports in America. Ironically despite the booming financial industry of youth sports, participation is steadily on the decline. Although I would argue softball remains steady or slightly on the rise, for reasons we have discussed in previous posts.
That being said, I believe the author is remiss in casually dismissing the allure of electronic distraction as a contributing factor in the decline of participation in youth sports. Although not the main focus of the author’s message, the electronic epidemic is a contributing factor to many issues concerning today’s youth and participation in youth athletics should certainly be counted as one.
My real disdain towards the author’s approach resonates in his use of the terms “Rich” and “Poor”, as if there is a crystal clear distinction between these two classes of families. The inference is being made that just because a parent writes a check for a travel team, it automatically deems them as “Rich”. The author never takes into consideration those who make significant sacrifices to write the check and the very real reasons they make those sacrifices. For instance, the necessary time commitments of a travel team reduces the student athlete’s accessibility to nefarious activity such as alcohol and drug use. (See: Scared To Death). Although I agree wholeheartedly youth sports has become a mammoth “Pay to Play Machine”, the reasons for that are far broader than the political undertones of equality and racism.
I further resent the authors suggestion that “Benevolent Rich Households” are making deliberate choices to hurt poor families, especially children. Are we really to believe the American way is for people with financial means to dutifully hoard those means, so as not to possibly harm those without? I suspect the writer would be the first one to cry foul, if those with financial means were not investing those means back into the economy. As the author already has pointed out youth sports makes a considerable contribution to the economy, right in line with the NFL and MLB. The author continues on to suggest moral injustice by investing the very same means in their children. “Enrichment Spending on Children is a Luxury Good”. So if I am to understand this correctly investing in the enrichment of your child’s development is bad. I believe competition breeds success (See “Fastpitch News” article “Internal Combustion”), and would urge more financially affluent families and programs to offer scholarships, which will bring more competition into the fold. I will go one step further and advocate such a program be made mandatory in order to operate a commercial travel sport. Another opportunity to teach the athlete a real life lesson.
“Dream Hoarding” is a very real thing, but a very real thing on multiple levels. Subsequently, money is not the only factor which makes the lever move. Opportunities are passed around every day based on many things including race, gender and politics. In recent years collegiate coaches have become lackadaisical recruiters, relying on old friendships and current coaching cliques to fill rosters. The result is mediocre athletes competing at the highest levels because of who they know, as opposed to what they are offering the game. Traditional conduits of recruiting (Showcases and Camps) are dead, ineffective and exist solely for financial gain. There are many reasons opportunities are being snatched from the less fortunate and it is not only the extremely financially challenged who suffer.
I will leave Mr. Thompson’s predictable rejoinder to the inequality of kids’ sports argument to your own interpretation, however I feel it perfectly illustrates his true motivation. Thank You sir for hyper politicizing a topic most of us use as an escape from such insanity. Well Done!!! It has become quite common to use Europe as a shining beacon of hope when illustrating our disgust and disdain for the United States of America. Obviously the author did not make any exception here. The use of the term “Egalitarian” to describe Norway’s youth-sports policies is obviously meant to suggest the foundation of this country is NOT cemented in the belief that ALL people are created equal and deserve equal rights and opportunities. Do we live in a perfect Utopian society? Of course not. No one on this planet does. However, as usual this is a very unfair and inaccurate observation of our society. The lottery in this country has existed for decades, developed on the premise that proceeds would benefit education and infrastructure, however bi partisan politicians unscrupulously divert those funds in unexplained directions. So perhaps the attack should not be directed at the existence of the principals upon which this country was founded, but to those who repeatedly thumb their noses at the meaning of those principals.
Not publishing game scores is no great accomplishment. Reality check! Someone wins and someone loses. Someone is getting into Harvard and someone is not. Someone is getting the corner office and someone is not. That is the life lesson that winning and losing on the youth athletic field teaches. Yes it feels bad to lose but you will pick yourself up, get over it and move on. That is what makes us a great nation. News Flash my friend! Super Team or not, Ice Hockey is arguably the most expensive youth sport in America dominated by the financial elite. I agree youth recreation programs are suffering immeasurably, and still represent the backbone of youth sports, despite the onslaught of commercialized youth sports programs. Every single kid playing collegiate sports stepped on the field for the first time in a town program. Unfortunately the commercial youth sports industry has evolved and become the new norm. Most parents are just trying to survive in an environment which has been forced upon them, whether they are “Rich” or not so “Rich”.
Can we come full circle and bring things back to what they were in our youth of the 60’s 70’s and 80’s? Maybe or maybe not. I can tell you this. Parents themselves are mostly to blame for the demise of town programs, which has subsequently contributed to the wild growth of travel programs. The majority of parents who run these town programs do so for the benefit of their own child. Either the parent is too oriented to the competition or they are too oriented to dampening the competition, and usually to which ever end suits their child. Here is a political argument for you Mr. Thompson. BALANCE! Youth Sports and the United States of America as a whole can only find success if we abandon the extremes and find BALANCE! Very much like the political elite in this country your article arrogantly ignores the middle class, who do most of the living, dying and tax paying in this country.
Finally I would like to offer an apology for bringing politics into this forum. Part of the reason this site was developed, was to provide an oasis away from the political stench which pollutes our everyday life.