Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Parental Instincts and Youth Sports

I just read a good article by AP writer Martha Irvine about the extremes families go to these days to help their kids succeed in youth sports. Yes - more on travel ball, "elite" training and spending thousands of dollars on tournaments, gear, gas, etc. But this is pretty interesting. Check it out: To Parents, Youth Sports An 'Athletic Arms Race.'  Great title, by the way.

The article is filled with quotes that jump out at me:

1. From Shawn Worthy, upon hearing that some of his 16-year-old daughter's fellow golfers competed in 30 tournaments in a summer - "If you're a future Olympian, I get it. But for these kids who will never reach that level, that's what I don't get... What does it say about our culture that we go to this extreme?" I don't get it either. Nothing wrong with dreaming big, but not to the point that the entire family's lives revolve around it. I think kids need to be more well-rounded and gain some perspective on life, not just sports.

2. From Irvine - "Parents are driven by a desire to help their children stand out and the fear that, if they don't, their kids will be left behind." That pretty much nails it right there. Competitive parenting, and the feeling that you must always be pushing your child to the next level, is why this stuff is happening at younger and younger ages. As psychology professor, Scott VanderStoep says, "It sort of spreads throughout the community and then it reduces down in age. If it's OK for 14-year-olds, then it's OK for a 12-year-old, or a 10-year-old." We've got to have the guts to draw the line somewhere.

3. From Corinne Henson, mom of 11- and 14-year-old travel baseball players, whose family gave up their campsite for lack of any time to go there.... whose "vacations are baseball trips"... whose kids have regularly missed birthday parties and other events... and whose oldest son played baseball instead of attending the bulk of a fundraiser for his best friend, who had been struck and injured by a hit-and-run motorist: "But it's so hard, as a parent." Really? Sounds pretty easy when you let your kids run the family. But they "wouldn't give up sports for anything." Obviously.

4. And from Irvine - "As psychologist Wendy Grolnick sees it, that's just parents doing what they're wired to do — responding to a very primal instinct to protect their children and ensure their survival." Makes sense. Same reason puppies sometimes eat their own feces - instincts taking over logic.

But us humans are smarter than we were when those instincts were being forged. Our brains are literally bigger and better. Sometimes we have to think intelligently about what we're doing and make hard decisions because they are best for our kids, and whole family in the long run. Sometimes we need to take a step back and, as Tom Swyers writes, think big picture. Another good article by the way...

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