I have mixed feelings about high school graduates going straight to the pros. I think it'd be great if they could attend college first and learn. But let's face it -- not everyone is meant for college. And I've never seen any articles or outrage about the many high school graduates who become apprentice plumbers, sheet metal workers or store clerks. Shouldn't they too, like the talented athletes, get a chance at a higher education?
-- Bill Adamiec, Lombard, Ill.
My only goals in enrolling my 7-year-old daughter in soccer are to teach her sportsmanship, a love for physical activity, and above all, to HAVE FUN!! We are so fortunate to have had two great coaches so far who adopt these same goals in their approach to the game. As a result, my daughter loves playing soccer, is self-motivated to practice and is eager to try other sports as well. I can't tell you how many times I have heard other parents and coaches practically give themselves a hernia screaming at their children over a missed shot or other mistake. As the grown-ups we all need to set a better example and adopt the mantra we all should have learned when we were children -- "It's just a game!!"-- Erin Burkamp, Fort Worth, Texas
Parents try to get their kids to live the athletic dreams that they could never accomplish themselves. Having played baseball most of my life I have seen this first-hand -- parents pushing kids to play one sport all the time, year-round, because they think it's going to lead to that scholarship or professional contract. True, practice and time are very important, but so is letting the kids decide for themselves whether or not a particular sport is how they want to devote their lives.
--Adam Hicks, college student and baseball player, Scottsdale, Ariz.
To the parents and coaches who yell at kids for making a mistake, I ask you: How would you feel if your boss came into your office at work and started yelling at you? And how do you think it would feel if he or she did this to you in public with colleagues and bystanders watching? I know I wouldn't like it ... I've been coaching Little League for four years now and still only have three rules for my kids to follow: play safely, have fun and try, try, try ... Let's let the kids be kids for as long as possible and not rush them into growing up too soon.
--David Chubb, Little League coach, Mechanicsburg, Pa.
The pressure put on young athletes is immense. I feel that many parents and coaches forget that these young athletes are also young children. Where has the fun gone and why aren't kids allowed to be kids and enjoy themselves? I believe the answer is the soaring salaries of pro athletes. Thanks for doing the article. I hope that it hits home to the many coaches and parents who are destroying America's youth.
--James O'Tremba, High School Principal, Aurora, Colo., Little League coach, Parker, Colo.
I've been a soccer coach for 17 years, with dozens of former and current players having received college scholarships. I wish I could take your story and force-feed it to some of our local parents and coaches. It almost breaks my heart to listen to the way some kids are yelled at. Parents coming unglued on the sidelines, coaches nearly having strokes over a shot/pass/miss or whatever. Sad thing is most of the time the adults are wrong about what they are yelling about ...
The best job I ever did as a coach was when I sub-coached for a team of 7-year-old girls. During the game I sat with them, commented about the game, tied shoes, did hair stuff (not too well) and kept track of water bottles. One day one of the shy girls got the ball, nudged it towards the goal, shot it and it went in. Joy was everywhere, her friends jumped up and down, and I told her what a wonderful goal it was. The parents thought I had lost my mind -- seems it was into the wrong goal. She didn't know, her friends didn't know, and I wasn't going to tell her. I could have yelled at her, and she would have cried and most likely quit. She fell in love with the game and is now playing for a D2 school. Maybe not yelling was the key, maybe not. Bottom line: the kids want to play for fun, and if it's not fun they will quit.
--Jack L. Patton, Wichita, Kan.
I'm sorry but you're full of it. Kids do these sports because they love it. When they do get an injury it just makes them want to work harder next year. If some of the kids can't take the pressure then they shouldn't play the game. The competition is what makes it fun. You should try to look into a kid's eyes before you start judging us!
Until I retired last year, I had been a youth hockey coach for the better part of 20 years. At times I coached some very high-level competitive teams, and my philosophy was always that every kid on my team would play equally, regardless of their relative talent, and that when they weren't at the rink, they needed to do something else -- anything except play hockey. I also encouraged them to take the time to enjoy the off-season and play different sports. At times I caught a lot of heat for this philosophy, yet my teams won several championships, usually made the playoffs, and the kids enjoyed playing on my teams. With that said, one point you did not address in your article is the fact that these same parents who push their kids so hard are the ones who also drive good coaches away from the game. As the good coaches leave, the sport is left only with coaches who are unqualified to coach and those who buy into the win-at-all-cost philosophy. When I was young, I was fortunate to have coaches who left lasting positive impressions on me, impressions that have helped form who I am as an adult. I coached because I wanted to have that same effect on others. I quit because of the parents.
--Eddie Olson, Colorado Springs, Colo.
You have nailed a huge problem on the head with your article on over-achieving parents trying to make it to the pros through their offspring. Right on!
--Mary Jo McFaul, Seattle
We put too much emphasis on the winning vs. losing. Half of the kids during a game "lose," which is negative. The emphasis should be on individual improvement, which is positive, and therefore the kids have fun. Usually when this happens, they want to compete and in due time will understand how to win and how to accept losing in a positive manner. The biggest crime in youth sports is taking the passion out of the children.
--Scott Leius, former Major League Baseball player and currently part owner in Dan Gladdens Big League Baseball Camp, Edina, Minn.
I am a student at Eastern Michigan University studying physical education. I wanted to let you know that I enjoyed your article. Our society is pushing kids way too hard to excel in sports. Coming from an athletic background, I am a huge supporter of youth sports. Thank you for taking the time to bring a soon epidemic to everyone's attention.
--Richard Rathman, Ypsilanti, Mich.
More light needs to be shed on this subject. Parents and coaches often push kids too hard for perfection in developmental stages of a young athlete's life. It is as if a young athlete is defined into a certain sport at a young age in which it is nearly impossible to predict what sport(s) they will excel in until they are juniors and seniors in high school. The obvious risk of burnout is not being examined in a realistic manner. I played football in college and received a good education. The odds are against the parents who think that they will be able to retire on their kid's ability to play professional sports.
-- Greg Adolph, Morris, Okla.