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.

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