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updated 9/24/2006 11:04:07 PM ET 2006-09-25T03:04:07

In response to our story "When coaches should hit the bench," readers wrote in to voice their concerns about the win-at-all-costs mentality that corrupts youth sports.

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"I think every child should have the right to experience the fun in the team games," said one reader who played sports growing up. "The fun I had with my teammates on and off the field still holds dear to me. Any coach taking that away is not a coach."

Another reader said some youth coaches just need to take a "chill pill."

But one reader said society should give coaches a break. "Every year sports leagues around the country are forced to scramble for coaches because not enough parents volunteer," he said. "Let's try to help those who volunteer and not just criticize them."

Read on for more responses:

As the mother of four ... we strive for balance and communicate with coaches. However, each weekend becomes a question mark. Was this fun? Is this the family time we need? Perhaps, my sons will be NFL linebackers as they dream or my daughter will bring back women's pro soccer — but I am not willing to sacrifice their childhood for daydreams. Life has too many real stresses for us to create one on Saturday afternoon.
Anonymous, Oklahoma

There is definitely too much emphasis placed on winning at all costs. The kids are not being taught values like good sportsmanship.
Chris, Sacramento, Calif.

Thanks for the insightful article on the sorry state of youth sports coaching in the U.S. The frequency of these ugly incidents is no coincidence. Youth sports competitiveness and resultant poor behavior of coaches and parents have been increasing for years. While I agree there is a crisis, it is great to know that organizations like Positive Coaching Alliance continue to gain popularity with leagues and officials throughout the U.S. I have coached youth soccer, hockey, basketball and lacrosse over the past 10 years and many of the leagues that sponsor these teams have adopted a requirement or recommendation that coaches attend a PCA seminar. It may be even more important for parents to go through the education process. It never ceases to amaze me at the bad behavior of parents on the sideline of youth games towards officials, coaches, players and other parents. The tone of teams and their parents can and should be set by the coach but parents need to police themselves and their fellow parents better at these events.
Chris, Bethesda, Md.

For sure coaches should never verbally or physically abuse kids, but on the other hand I don't think that the "everyone wins, let's just have fun" attitude of some youth sports programs is appropriate for all kids. As a hockey parent with three kids, I have noticed that the more skilled and competitive players thrive on competition and have the most fun when they are playing to win. Other kids thrive in a less-intense setting. I guess the bottom line is that kids should have the opportunity to play sports at a level appropriate to their abilities and enthusiasm.
Bruce, Tolland, Conn.

As a youth coach and as a former participant in youth sports programs as a child, I too recognized that very issue, when coaches go overboard and it becomes a problem. I feel oftentimes coaches get involved for the wrong reasons — i.e. to live out their playing days. I, for one, use athletics to teach the fundamentals of the particular sport and to teach life skills. It's not about how many kids you coach that make it to the pros, but the number of young lives you impact in making them better people in society. It's sad to see coaches, in particular at the youth level, demand so much from kids at the cost of winning, because winning isn't everything. As a father, I am leery of even letting my children participate in youth sport programs where I feel coaches aren't competent or are too driven by winning. Once they make it to the college or professional ranks, it'll be fine and dandy because somebody's getting paid for producing winning results, until then some coaches need to take a chill pill.
Jemel, Richmond, Va.

My son, Josh, has played basketball and tennis, and this year he's playing football. Although he personally has not been accosted or intimidated, he has stated that his coach has a habit of busting up his clipboards in anger when the students don't make the points he expects. Though Josh jokes about how this guy "goes through clipboards every week," I feel that such behavior is bad for these kids — not to mention expensive on the school budget. I think coaches who are that angry should at the very least have anger management counseling, if not temporarily hand over the team to another coach.
Terri, California

As a soccer coach (two youth teams and a JV high school team), I do believe there is a crisis. It is frustrating going against a win-at-all-costs coach who only plays their top kids more than the minimum required play, and who de-emphasizes fun. I put a lot of effort into studying my sport and in teaching age-appropriate skills, and I don't deal well with coaches who don't.
Keith, Sebring, Fla.

I played sports all my life, Little League through college. I had tough coaches and weak coaches. The best coach to have is the one who cares. There is a fine line between caring and pushing. I believe coaches should be evaluated at multiple times throughout the season ... I have kids now and the first thing they learn about sports is the fun ... I think every child should have the right to experience the fun in the team games ... The fun I had with my teammates on and off the field still holds dear to me. Any coach taking that away is not a coach.
Nick, Connecticut

I find it funny that the same people who are concerned about the children wanting to build self-esteem, sportsmanship and character are the same people who are too busy to actually coach youth sports. They then find fault with the people who step up to help. I'm not saying that all youth coaches are doing a great job, I'm just saying that at least they are trying and going in with the best of intentions. Every year sports leagues around the country are forced to scramble for coaches because not enough parents volunteer. Let's try to help those who volunteer and not just criticize them.
Paul, Chicago

There should be rules at all levels in youth sports that all players get to play at least 33 percent of the time to 50 percent of the time in all youth sports, no matter what the skill level. AND remember coaches, it is just for fun. Fun for the kids playing and just doing their best, no matter what the outcome, and fun (for the coach) in seeing them change year to year and getting better.
Robert

When a league changes its emphasis from recreational to competitive, the dynamics of the league changes. It then becomes an ego trip for the adults instead of a positive experience for the young athletes. Whatever happened to playing for fun?
HMJ, Findlay, Ohio

As a parent of an 8-year-old boy playing both flag football and almost year-round baseball, I have seen the good and the bad of competitive youth sports. My son as a 6-year-old old was able to play on a T-ball team that reached the state tournament (that in itself might seem disturbing). That is when the win-at-all-cost mentality of one of my fellow coaches kicked in. (When he was) thrown out of an early-round game and berating his players and fellow coaches because we were eliminated from the championship game, I realized that something was terribly wrong with what I was putting my son through. Needless to say, we left the team after the tournament and found a coach who understands that youth sports should be a marathon and not a sprint. The stress that some of these youngsters are put through to win guarantees that most will not continue to play into their high school years, where teamwork, dedication, work ethic are allowed to grow. My son is still a very good player for his age group and absolutely loves being a part of a team. When asked what he thinks is the most important aspect of playing baseball or football he always states being a good teammate.
Anonymous, Texas

As a volunteer youth soccer coach for 3+ years in Delaware, Ohio, I have NOT experienced nearly the amount of abusive coaches and parents that the media report. Yes, there are coaches who yell and scream in non-constructive ways, but the majority are fairly easy-going coaches who support all of the kids ... Our league does not tolerate abuse of players, or abuse by parents to coaches.
Anonymous, Ohio

I'm a youth volleyball player and for us youth most of us like hard coaches because 90 percent of us are playing to get scholarships and the harder they push the better chance we have. I like mean coaches because most likely you win and that's more fun than just having fun!
Kelsey, North Carolina

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