George Hale Looks to the Past for the Future 

It certainly has been slow in coming but summer is on the horizon and the next round of youth sports with it.

Any number of leagues, travel teams and camps will be up and running.

I’ve been reading a lot lately about the problems of lack of officials, coaches and volunteers across the country.

When I was a kid we played games from daylight to dusk with pickup teams, no officials and very few parents watching our games.

We did fine, but the world has changed a lot.

The number of children playing team sports is not rising, but is falling each season.

It may not seem that way in your neck of the woods, but across the U.S.A., it’s true.

So the obvious question is, why?

People who study these things raise all kinds of issues from travel clubs, specialization in just one sport and trying to win a scholarship as the reasons.

More than 30 million kids from age 6 to 18 played in team sports last year.

That’s a large number for sure but it’s a drop from previous years and a downward trend since 2009.

Here is the most disturbing statistic I’ve come up with.

Close to 70% of all youths stop playing team sports by age 13.

The underlying problem is that our sports culture is designed to meet the needs of the most talented kids.

And so it’s easy to blame the parents and certainly that is a factor but other social factors are at play.

I was reading an article the other day about what kids say about sports and it was revealing.

Of the top five reasons given for participating in team sports winning the game or games was not even on the list.

Not many parents seem to grasp that concept these days.

Youngsters seem to understand that sports teaches us many things and while winning is important it’s not the only thing.

So before you start yelling at me I agree winning matters but I think the parents of my generation had the right idea.

They gave us breathing room.

What many parents don’t realize that kids do feel the pressure and strive for approval from the sidelines and most come to the realization that some kids are simply better at sports than others.

And no amount of cash or hours spent will change that equation.

Maybe that’s why I’m seeing some of the research show what many of us have felt for a long time.

Compared to other parts of our children’s lives, sports are the most parent oriented.

You don’t sit in the classroom or go to play rehearsal yet some show up at every team practice with folding chairs and side-line coach.

So as the youth summer season unfolds I’ve got this crazy idea.

Recognize that the reason kids are playing is for reasons parents have trouble with.

They are a group of kids who they basically like and want to be with.

Whether it be baseball, softball, basketball or whatever sport it’s perfectly okay not to be involved in every single moment.

One thing I learned traveling with college teams through the years.

After the game was over most of the players sat around talking about many things but the game they just played was way down the list.

Rule one should always be.

Is your kid having fun playing?

If not there is a problem that needs solving.

This is George Hale, and that’s my perspective on sports.