I kinda feel sorry for youth sports organizations.

They’re so fragile. They lack self esteem and confidence. They have a real scarcity mentality.

They’re really quite pathetic.

Youth sports clubs seem to have an out of control inferiority complex that gets worse and worse.

During a time when more and more big time college recruiters, coaches and professional players and coaches are speaking out and stressing the value of playing multiple sports while growing up, many youth sports organizations are trying their best to prevent that.

It’s like youth sports clubs are scared to let kids try other sports. They’re afraid that kids may like other sports more than them.

The Erosion Of The Off Season

If your kid is a good player, organizations will try to get him to participate in their out of season training programs or leagues. They create programs and give them names like “Elite,” “Premier,” or “Academy” to entice sports parents to feel obligated to keep their kid enrolled in the club’s programs year round.

Youth sports is a business. A BIG $5-$7 billion a year business, according to reports from Forbes and CNBC. And no business wants to be a “seasonal” business if they don’t have to be. It’s in their best interest to create revenue streams all year round.

They Know How To Influence Their Customer

Youth sports organizations are smart. They know and understand their customer – Sports Parents.

They know that we have egos and it feels good when someone tells us that our kids are good enough to be on their “Elite” team. They know that we want to feel like we’re getting our money’s worth out of their program. We want our kids to develop and progress. By recognizing kids to be a part of their “special” off season training, clubs reinforce that feeling in parents.

Organizations also know that we’ll feel like we’re holding back our kids’ potential if we don’t let them play in the invite only “Academy” off season program.

They know that we’ll feel like our kid is going to fall behind all of the other kids who are taking part in the “Premier” team training camps.

They know all of these things about us and they use that to influence us to take part in their off season stuff to keep the revenue coming in. (I was debating over saying they “exploit” or “manipulate” instead of “influence,” but I’ll give clubs the benefit of the doubt.)

They dangle the carrot of developing your kid into being one of the top players in the area. It’s marketing at its finest. I get it.

Social Pressure Contributes To The Problem

A few years ago when the regular hockey season was coming to an end, I kept getting asked by other parents if my kids were playing in the spring and summer leagues.

They weren’t. The regular hockey season begins in August and ends in March. That’s a long season, I don’t care how much you love the sport. I could sense that by the end of their regular season they were ready for a break from the rink.

Or course it seemed like EVERY other parent was enrolling their kid into some sort of spring session. I had second guesses about my decision purely because of my competitive nature. Just like you, I want my kids to have an edge over the other kids in their club.

I felt some self induced pressure from the feeling that all of those other kids were going to get better between March and the following season in August.

But I knew my kids and sensed that the break would do them good.

That’s the thing in all of this too. You’ve got to know your kid. I knew that taking some time off, and giving them a chance to miss hockey for a few months would recharge them.

I want my kids to miss their sport and get excited about their following season. I think that’s important to avoid burnout and also to help them remain engaged and focused at practices.

Kids’ Well Being Should Come First

I respect that many youth sports clubs are businesses. But I also believe that these businesses should put the best interests of the kids first.

Too many organizations have lost sight of why they [should] exist. Instead they’re trying to own the kids. They don’t want them playing other sports. They want to keep them coming to practices and extra training 3-4 days a week.

With some of these clubs, it’s like kids have to choose whether or not they want to be athletes or kids. We’ve got 9 and 10-year olds training like they’re 16. No wonder so many kids quit sports by the time they’re 13.

So not only does youth sports have an inferiority complex, but they’re smothering kids too.

It’s like youth sports is a clingy, needy, jealous, paranoid girlfriend or boyfriend. If you’ve ever had one of those, you probably didn’t stick around too long. It got old. You wanted a life. And so do our kids.

I believe that every youth sports organization should ask themselves one fundamental question before making any decision… “Does this serve our youth athletes, or does this serve us?” 

What do you think?

Thanks for reading.

Sports Parents Should Only Have 5 Expectations

Sports Parents Should Only Have 5 Expectations Post
As sports parents, we expect a lot out of our kids. I believe that many sports parents place their expectations too high, too unrealistic and too unfair.

Have you ever had an big expectation that you built up in your mind? Have you ever expected a movie, concert or restaurant to be so awesome that it was pretty much impossible to avoid being disappointed?

A couple years ago I heard about the sandwich chain Which Wich. I remember going online to check them out. The sandwiches looked delicious. I loved the creative concept of the sub shop too. It looked like an awesome place and I was excited to try it out. Unfortunately, at the time there weren’t any locations in my hometown of St. Louis. I was bummed.

For some reason, knowing I couldn’t get one in my town, I wanted to try Which Wich more than ever.

About a year later when our family was on a hockey trip in Nashville, TN I spotted a Which Wich near our hotel. Man was I excited! By this time, I had built up Which Wich so much in my mind. This was going to be the greatest sandwich in the world! I had BIG expectations.

When we got there, I wrote my sandwich order in Sharpie on the brown paper bag. It was awesome. Then it came time to dig into my sandwich that I had been visualizing and wanting for more than a year.

My review… “Meh.”

The bread was dry. There wasn’t enough meat. Too much lettuce.

What a letdown!

Didn’t even come close to my expectations. And even though we have Which Wich locations all over St. Louis now, I haven’t been back inside one since. The disappointment was too great.

OR… maybe my expectations were too high?

Expectations are a tricky thing. Especially when they come to human beings. More times than not, expectations only lead to disappointment.

For some reason, more and more sports parents are placing ridiculous expectations upon their kids. If you find yourself doing that, stop before you ruin your relationship with your son or daughter.

Don’t expect your kid to succeed all the time.
Give him the freedom to play freely and without fear of “screwing up.” He can’t play to his full potential or ever get into a flow if he’s constantly worried about making a mistake.

Don’t expect your kid to be the best player on the team.
First of all, if you put that expectation on him, he’ll start putting himself before the team. Games won’t be about his team having success, they’ll be all about how well he played.

Don’t expect your kid to get a sports scholarship.
It’s amazing how often I overhear other parents of nine, ten and eleven year old kids talking about which sports provide the most scholarships. If you’re looking at sports as the solution to covering the cost of college, you’re placing a heavy burden on the shoulders of your youth athlete. Adjust your expectations and get a new plan.

Don’t expect your kid to play pro.
For the love of God, don’t ever expect your kid to go pro in their sport. That’s all.

Sports Parents Should Only Have 5 Expectations

From the moment your child puts on a sports team uniform you should only have these five expectations of him as an athlete…

5. Failure

Your kid is going to fail. A lot. The sooner you not only accept that, but embrace it, the better. I say to embrace it because the last thing you want your child to be is tentative or afraid to mess up. If you’ve ever played sports, you know that success is never achieved if you play scared.

But guess what’ll happen if you jump all over your kid when he lets a ball go through his legs, or fans on a shot? The next time he gets a chance to make a play, he’s going to be thinking about not screwing up instead of just letting the play come to him and executing.

In a hockey game last season, my 9-year old son had a partial breakaway. Instead of doing a standard backhand to forehand deke move that he buries about 80% of the time, he pulls out “the Tarasenko” – a ridiculous move that Vladimir Tarasenko has pulled off a couple of times in a game.

He failed.

He failed and I LOVED IT! He pushed the shot wide of the goal. But everything besides that, was awesome. I couldn’t believe that he tried it in a game. It would have been a big goal too. His team was down by two at the time.

I didn’t care. I absolutely loved that he had the confidence and the creativity to try to pull off a shot like that. Why the heck not man? He’s nine years old. Have some fun out there. If he would have scored, it would have been the goal of the season!

4. Sportsmanship

There’s nothing I hate to see more than kids basically throwing a temper tantrum during a game. There’s no excuse for throwing equipment or slamming a stick or bat around because something in the game didn’t go your way. And when the game is over, kids need to congratulate the other team for a good game. No matter how heated a game was, when it’s over, it’s over. Shake hands and go home.

I had to have a long talk with my youngest son after an intense indoor soccer game this past season. Carter was really getting into it with a kid on the other team. They had quite a few rough battles for the ball. I saw the kid take some cheap shots towards the end of the game. He got his elbows up a couple times and kicked Carter from behind another.

I watched the handshake line extremely close after the game. I saw what I was hoping wouldn’t happen. Carter twisted the other kid’s hand in the line. I was not pleased.

I immediately went over and talked to him about it when he came off the field. He started balling as soon as I got one sentence out. “That kid grabbed my hand and squeezed it instead of high-fiving me like everyone else!” Carter said as he continued crying. “He was kicking me and elbowing me all game dad.”

“Did you twist his arm in the line?” I asked.

“Yes. When he squeezed my hand I squeezed his back and turned my hand over.” Carter said.

I wanted Carter to apologize to the other kid, but I lost sight of where he went after the game.  That wasn’t a proud moment, but we talked about it for a while afterwards. I think Carter learned a valuable lesson from it. I’d be very surprised if he ever does anything like that again.

3. Respect

This one is closely related to sportsmanship, but I felt like it deserved to stand on its own. When kids play sports there are a lot of different elements they should be expected to respect.

Coaches: Kids aren’t always going to agree with their coach’s decisions, but they always have to respect them.

Officials: Refs and umps are going to blow calls. A kid should never argue or use body language that lets everyone know that he didn’t think a call was right. They need to respect the call that was made and live with it.

Sports parents need to do a much better job modeling this behavior. (Not you, of course. The other parents on your teams. ;>)

Teammates: No matter what, kids need to support and respect their teammates. They should never point fingers or place blame on other teammates after a loss.

Opponents: If kids don’t have respect for their opponents, then bad things can happen quickly in sports. Bad things that can affect another kid’s life well beyond one game. Hits from behind in hockey, head shots in football, hard slide tackles in soccer, a cheap shot slide in baseball, an intentional foul in basketball. All of those plays can seriously injure someone. They’re all plays that take place when there’s a loss of respect.

2. Hustle/Effort

I don’t know about you, but if my kid’s stepping onto a playing surface, he better give his best effort every time out. There’s never an acceptable reason for a kid not to hustle. When a kid develops the habit of hustling in sports, that carries over into other areas of life. Always expect your kid to hustle.

Hustle = Hunger and Hunger = Drive.

Whatever my kids end up doing in life, I want them to be driven. I want them to set audacious goals and then bust their butt going after them. That begins and ends with Hustle.

1. Have Fun

This one’s pretty simple. If you don’t expect your kid to have fun while he’s playing a sport, then why the heck would you have him play? Youth sports are always about fun. The moment your kid stops having fun playing, it’s time to find him a different team or sport all together.

The expectation should always be to have fun.

I hope you’ve had some fun reading this post!

Thanks for reading,

Sports Dad Forgets

Father Forgets smallerHave you ever yelled at your kids and later regretted it?

Do you ever feel like maybe you expect too much from your young kids?

I know I’ve been guilty of both of those things, more times than I’d like to admit.

I recently read the classic book by Dale Carnegie, How To Win Friends and Influence People. Well, technically I listened to it – three times so far – on Audible.

In the book, Carnegie republishes Father Forgets a powerful essay written by W. Livingston Larned. It originally appeared in an early 1920’s edition of People’s Home Journal. It’s still extremely relevant today.

The piece is basically a hard-driving father’s message to his young son acknowledging the unfair treatment he has given him. It’s his pledge to change his ways and see his boy as he is…just a boy…not a man.

It’s a great essay that every dad can resonate with. The first thing I thought of when I heard it was how much it could apply to Sports Dads. So I decided to republish it with a Sports Dad Hub spin on it. I hope you enjoy it.

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Don’t Be A Fun Sucker

Fun youth hockeyThe world of sports is notorious for bombastic clichés.

“This game is do or die.” “This could be the turning point of the season.” “This is the biggest game of the year.” “Biggest pitch of the game.” And how could we leave out, “Sudden-death overtime.”

Is it just me or do you ever feel like some Sports Parents may take those big moments in pro sports and relate them to their kid’s youth sports endeavors?

There’s nothing wrong with being excited to watch your kids compete in a game or tournament.

Candidly, watching my kids compete in sports is my favorite thing to do. And yeah, when I know they’re going to be facing a good team, I get a little more pumped up to watch those games. But here’s the thing. I try not to show my excitement or nervousness with my boys. I want them to treat every game like it’s just another game. And I always encourage them to participate in practice and play every game as hard as they can and have as much fun as possible.

Why The Added Pressure?

One thing that I see some parents do is put extra unnecessary pressure on their kids before they take the field/court/ice. A couple of weeks ago, my boys went through their annual ice hockey evaluations. Evaluations are kind of like tryouts but there are no cuts. It’s the placement system our hockey club uses to determine what skill level kids should play at and what teams they’re placed on.

I was amazed at how serious some parents were taking the evaluations. They were trying to pump up their kids in the locker room. If I wouldn’t have known better, I would have thought they were trying out for Team USA. I wanted so badly to say, “Hey…Herb Brooks called. He wants his intensity back.”

During evals, one dad walked over to the glass in front of where his son was lined up and waiting his turn to do a drill. The dad banged on the glass to get his kid’s attention. Then when his son came over, he shouted…

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What If…?

What IfHave you ever asked yourself, “What if?”

“What If?” is a complex question. Well, the question itself isn’t complex, but the potential answers that your mind will search for when asked it certainly are.

Your mind can endlessly search and try to provide an answer, but you’ll never come up with anything definitive.

Do you know why?

Because it’s an unanswerable question. It’s the most open-ended question you can ask yourself.

Two Extremes To “What If?”

The possible answers you’ll conjure up when you ask yourself, “What if?” will come in two extremes. They will be:

  1. Full of hope, dreams and potential.
  2. Full of regret, second guesses and blown potential.

The Danger of “What If?”

For that reason, “What if?” is a dangerous question to ask yourself when it relates to your kids and youth sports.

When your child is young and just starting to show flashes of athletic talents, it’s easy to…

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