Putting Kids’ Sports in Perspective

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With fall sports seasons winding down and winter one ramping up, it’s a good time for a little perspective on kids’ sports.

That’s what sports psychologist Richard D. Ginsburg, PhD. aimed to impart in a recent lecture to a group of parents in the auditorium of one of Baltimore’s elite schools and, not incidentally, athletic powerhouses. He began with this loaded question: “Why do kids play sports?” The answers—health, friendship, fitness—sounded reasonable. The phrases “college scholarships” and “popularity” were not uttered. But Ginsburg, a former competitive athlete and parent of two young kids, knows better.

In the book he co-authored, Whose Game is It, Anyway?, Ginsburg addresses our society’s super-crazed sports culture, warning parents against letting their families get swallowed up in what are supposed to be, well, kids’ games.

Ginsburg shared some interesting facts about kids and sports as well as advice for parents of every kind of kid, from the reluctant team sports players to the star of the travel and club team circuits. Here are some of the facts I found most compelling:

  • Kids don’t understand the meaning of winning and losing until they’re 11 or 12.
  • Kids naturally forget about outcomes pretty quickly.
  • The best athletes on the team at 11 or 12 are rarely the same ones at 18 or 19.
  • About 50 percent of injuries seen in pediatric orthopedics offices are related to overuse.
  • Only about five out of 100 kids who play high school sports play college sports (including divisions 1, 11, and 111).
  • The average athletic scholarship offered by a Division 1 school is $10,000
  • Parental involvement in the college recruitment process has escalated by about 70 percent in recent years.

Next, for some general advice he offered his audience:

  • Discourage specialization.
  • Encourage participation over outcome.
  • Avoid imposing your own feelings on winning and losing.
  • Recognize when you can’t/shouldn’t coach your own kid anymore.
  • After the game in the car ride, ask your kid if she/he had fun—don’t point out what he/she did wrong.

Finally, he left his audience with these three seemingly simple but powerful suggestions regarding sports: Know yourself, know your kids, and know your child’s environment. And evaluate them seasonally.

 To learn more about Ginsburg and his co-authors or to buy the book, log on to http://www.whosegameisitanyway.com/.

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