Friday, December 10, 2010

Book Review: Until It Hurts by Mark Hyman

There has been plenty of talk nationally about Mark Hyman's latest book, Until It Hurts, since its release about a year ago. And a couple of parents in our own league have mentioned it to me. So I decided to give it a read and report back.

Hyman's book is essentially about what he calls the "hostile takeover" of youth sports by adults. As he says in his introduction, "adults rule youth sports." It isn't a new trend. It has gone on for decades.

Hyman uses anecdotes and statistics to show the disturbing patterns of behavior among many misguided and ultra-competitive parents and coaches throughout various sports, both team and individual. One story is that of his own family and what led to his son's Tommy John Surgery.

Throughout the book, Hyman examines a number of things considered wrong with today's youth sports culture:

- The big business it has become, including national TV broadcasts;

- Parents who relentlessly pursue athletic success for their kids, over-scheduling them to the point of exhaustion, with hopes of rare college scholarships, even more rare million dollar contracts, or just the social status of having raised an elite athlete;

- Early sport specialization and adults who push athletes to be the best, no matter the toll it takes on their minds and bodies, sometimes working them to the point of injury; and

- The focus on winning over fun, fairness and health.

Hyman is an advocate for organizations designed with fun and the best interests of the kids in mind. He says we should be listening to doctors' advice, and to what the kids themselves have to say about what they want to pursue and how they want their athletic experiences to be.

He's done a good job of painting an honest picture of what youth sports in America has become, although some of the anecdotes could be considered extreme cases. This book is an important look into what is best for kids and what we, the parents and coaches of young athletes should keep in mind as we guide them.

Until It Hurts by Mark Hyman is currently available at Amazon for around $10.

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