The Top 5 Improvements Needed in Youth Sports
Youth sports provide countless fun and exciting life experiences for kids, including being a part of a team and learning the value of hard work, motivation, and perseverance. At the same time, there are issues and concerns we must address in order to ensure kids maximize the sport experience, and do so in as safe a way as possible. It’s important that all adults (including both coaches and parents) work collaboratively to not only mitigate potential risks, but to also create an environment built on inclusion, sportsmanship, and healthy training and development. Youth sports are ever-changing, prompting adults to address the biggest issues leaving kids at-risk to both physical injury, as well as mental distress.
The top 5 changes needed in youth sports
- Hiring more properly trained coaches. Today’s coaches need to not only have a basic understanding of the game they’re coaching, but also how to establish healthy and appropriate relationships with kids. This includes modeling appropriate behavior, refraining from coarse and abusive language, and promoting an environment based on fairness and integrity. Coaches should also, at minimum, have a understanding of basic first aid, CPR, and concussions.
- Safer fan protocols and procedures. Sadly, it is not uncommon today to hear of stories of fans acting out from the stands, making it vitally important that youth sport officials clearly state expectations for fan behavior, as well as consequences for when fans break those rules.
- More attention toward sport burnout risks. Many kids today play sports year-round, and some play multiple sports at the same time. This kind of heavy investment in sports increases the chances for sport burnout, so it’s important for coaches and parents to regularly audit sports schedules and intensity to ensure they are age-appropriate.
- Greater awareness of success rates for college and pro sports. While it’s not the most optimistic message to send, it is important that families understand that only a handful of kids will earn college athletic scholarships, and even fewer will play professional sports. By knowing these realities it encourages everyone involved in youth sports to set realistic goals and expectations, thereby allowing kids to fully enjoy the youth sport experience.
- Better safeguards for officials. Another unfortunate trend in recent years is the decrease in youth and interscholastic officials. In fact, not only have officials been verbally assaulted, some have been physically attacked. We can improve on these conditions by offering safer working conditions (creating specific fan expectations is a great start), and empower potential officials through stronger support and recognition. Remember, much of the quality of the youth sport experience relies directly on the officials working the games.
In some ways youth sports have morphed into looking more like professional sports, especially as this applies to intensity, number of games played over the course of a season, and increased emphasis on winning. Along with these changes have come a number of new issues and problems, prompting sports leaders to re-boot their strategies, problem-solving methods, and procedures. It’s a proactive process working to make sure kids have a great sport experience, and the ideas presented here are designed to start important, healthy conversations.