I hear a great deal of discussion about character over championships nowadays. Most right-minded people openly say they put their children in sport to build character and that championships are not the goal. This sounds great in theory, right? However, it is much more difficult in application. People have invested so much of their personal worth, family time, and margin for adventure into the vehicle of youth sports. The parents doing this are awesome and make tremendous sacrifices to afford their kids opportunities believed to be beneficial. The problem is that this youth sports dilemma is becoming a Great American Lie.
This money machine is using the guise of sport and character to mask the fact that it is a $15 billion industry. Full-time club coaches, organizations, private coaches, skill enhancement coaches, showcases, tournaments year-round, and many other cogs in the wheel have created a money machine that is running over parents and athletes by robbing them of the true essence of sports – joy and wonder.
The result of this youth sports money monster is that character is becoming very difficult to teach due to its rapid monetization. Parents are being manipulated and sold on the lie that their kids must keep up and play hundreds of games a year and practice like college or professional athletes in order to ever achieve the goal “of getting to the next level” or “getting a scholarship”. Herein lies the problem. What started out as fun and a well-intentioned process of growing the character of young people has been turned into a keeping up with the Jones’s movement spurred on by a fear that we are not being good parents if we do not give our kids these opportunities.
However, as parents, the only opportunity we are giving them when we get smoke-screened into buying this lifestyle is the opportunity to burn them out while losing the chance instilling the lasting character traits we’d hoped for originally. How can joy, wonder, and character be a priority when we are investing our livelihoods, time, and resources into “getting to the next level “or “achieving the scholarship”?
We must slow down, create a plan, and help our kids not get swept up by the current of this tidal wave. Don’t get me wrong, there is a time when our kids need to train at a very high-level. I’m just saying the decision on WHEN to start training on a high level needs to be approached in the proper perspective with care, balance, and thorough planning. We must have guidelines, consequences, and priorities in place so that the child can fail or succeed on their own merit, and so the parents can hold the reins of the children in their hands. As a parent of two currently walking through this sport journey, I hope we can all remember our job as parents is to discern the right opportunities for our children to help them grow into the men and women we know they can me.