The current landscape of youth sports is broken. You see signs of it everywhere. Kids dropping out of sports earlier than they used to, young athletes giving in to using PEDs to gain college scholarships, and parents obsessing over their child’s performance. There seem to be three main problems that happen with regularity.
The focus is too often on the short-term.
Coaches and parents often have a “win now” mentality. This isn’t always a bad thing until it comes at the cost of an athlete’s development. Coaches want to win now because it means more championships and trophies, which in turn means more money and prestige for them. They don’t care if half the team barely got to play and didn’t develop to their potential. They don’t care that the best players on the team now have a sense of entitlement and poor work ethic.
Everyone wants tangible results for the work put in, but when that comes at the expense of an athlete getting burned out from high expectations, is it worth it? That same high pressure scares young athletes from making mistakes. Mistakes that need to be made so they can learn, develop, and improve. The focus must be on the long-term development of young athletes to reach their full potential in a fun and safe environment.
Over-specialization has taken over the lives of young athletes.
Parents are often pressured to put their child in only one sport at a young age so they can train in that sport year round and master it. While on the surface this seems like a good idea to give young athletes the best opportunity to succeed, it truly serves to decrease athletic development and increase injury risk.
Most of today’s professional athletes actually played multiple sports all the way through high school. It allowed them to become well-rounded athletically. For example, Hall of Fame short stop Cal Ripken played soccer throughout high school because it helped develop better footwork. This concept not only applies to multiple sports, but positions as well. Upward Stars requires programs to play every player at each position until age 13 so they can become more fully-developed in the sport.
Too many programs give one-dimensional training.
The reality is young athletes are only athletes for so many hours each week. They all have lives away from sports. When a program trains them only as an athlete, the experience becomes hollow because they’re only chasing athletic success. What happens when their playing career is over?
It’s important that young athletes don’t base their identity solely on what they can do on the field or court. Upward Stars works to train athletes not just athletically, but mentally, spiritually, and socially as well. This ensures that regardless of when a career ends, each athletes is left with life skills that can be used for off the court success. For young athletes, it’s great to celebrate wins and athletic achievements. It’s just as important to promote academic successes, spiritual growth, and other non-sport achievements of young athletes.