Influence of Sports Upon America’s Youth
Over the last two decades the growth of youth sports has reflected the popularity of professional sports in our society. Sporting events and news are available to the public twenty-four hours a day on television and radio: sports are an enormous industry. The outstanding popularity of the sports industry has profoundly affected youth sports organizations. An estimated twenty-five million children age six through eighteen participate in at least one school or community based athletic program. These numbers increase exponentially as the age of boys and girls entering sports keeps falling. In order to supervise, teach and manage these athletes about 2.5 million coaches spend an average of eighty hours a season with them. The majority of these coaches volunteer for programs organized by the community, religious organizations, and recreational facilities. Without a national agency to coordinate sports programs, there exists great variation in the manner in which sponsoring agencies organize their teams, thus leaving plenty of opportunity for too much parental and coach control. Agencies have quickly moved American youth from unstructured play to highly organized competition. This infrastructure (or over structure) of organized youth sports is the backbone for criticism and praise by professional athletes, physicians, and psychologists.
There are many that feel organized sports can be very beneficial. Lyle Micheli, associate professor at Harvard Medical School, strongly supports organized sports for youth. He claims that sports aid in the development of social and interpersonal skills, health fitness and psychological well-being. The more evident benefits involve individual skill development, greater physical fitness, and higher self esteem. Other benefits include development of group cooperation teamwork and friendship-making skills.
Many feel that self-esteem and self-image can be greatly improved through sports.
Psychologists around the country stress a need for an active life style to develop healthy self-images. Eric Margenau, a psychologist and author, feels that early and frequent exposure to sports is the key to personal growth. Sports introduce children to healthy competition. A child’s failure in competition helps them learn to win gracefully and lose with honor. It teaches youngsters that through perseverance and determination they can win next time. These lessons that children learn will stay with them throughout their lifetime.
Some skeptics criticize the very premise of competition is hazardous to a child’s psychological and emotional well-being. The critics of sports emphasize the detrimental affects of competition and the negative influence of untrained coaches and pushy parents. There are a huge number of children playing sports, but due to burnout, stress, psychological trauma, and lowered self-esteem as many as seventy-three percent quit sports by the age of thirteen. Rick...