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Financial and emotional burden in today’s youth sport

John Amaechi, Mike Tromley, and Travis Dorsch successful story represent the dreams of many children, and more often their parents.  Amaechi picked up basketball when he was 17, left for Ohio to finish high school, and six years later started to play for the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers. Trombley went to Duke University without an athletic scholarship, made the baseball team and was drafted by the Minnesota Twins, pitching for 11 seasons. And Dorsch got a scholarship to Purdue University, where he earned All-American honours and went on to play football for the Cincinnati Bengals.

All three athletes excelled in the three sports many children play, used that ability to play in college and then had lucrative professional careers. But all three agree on one thing: The way youth sports are played today bears no resemblance to their childhoods, and the money, time and energy that parents spend are probably misplaced.

Travis Dorsch is now an assistant professor at Utah State University, researching parents’ engagement in their children’s sports, and noticed that spending on sports has grown up to 10.5% of gross income and that it is hurting family harmony. “A family bringing in $50,000 a year could be spending $5,500,” he said. “Without being judgy, I’m fine with families spending that kind of money. What’s wrong is when that investment brings out some sort of negative parent behaviour. Or if the kid says mom and dad are spending $10,000 on me a year, what are they expecting in return? Is it a college scholarship? The chances are slim to none of a kid getting a scholarship.”

The financial cost is easy to see. Parents of young quarterbacks, from third through 12th grade, spend about $800 each for a two-day camp with Steve Clarkson in Los Angeles, without airfare, hotel and other expenses. Clarkson has coached top N.F.L. quarterbacks since 1986 in his academy, and also offers private coaching starting at $400 an hour. He still acknowledges that expectations can sometimes be out of whack: “What I hope parents understand is that there are some three million high school players and by the time they scale that down to the quarterback position there are a couple of hundred thousand starters.”

Despite that, Clarkson noted that football can provide children with opportunities they might not have had otherwise. Also Mike Tromley, today a financial adviser, agreed, as baseball might get him into a better college than he would otherwise. Yet he still laments that the highest level of youth sports may be out of reach for many children. The farthest he ever travelled for a game was a couple of towns over, but recently his family drive hours to some weekend-long high school tournaments.

John Amaechi thinks parents are misguided when they justified spending so much time and money on sports to teach their children life lessons. He referred to a study of Britain’s Child Protection in Sport Unit, that found that 75% of 4,000 British children reported various types of psychological harm, like feeling diminished or undermined by coaches and teammates. “Coaches are allowed to be emotionally illiterate,” he said. “I’ve watched as a coach stood screaming inches from the face of a girl and the parents were in the stands and instead of being incensed they continued screaming at her when she came to them.”

Mark Hyman, who has written books on youth sports, explained that parents were not looking at the statistics when they set their goal to give their children the best chance in life or to get them a scholarship to college. “Parents think these investments are justified; they think it will lead to a full ride to college,” he said. “That’s highly misinformed. The percentage of high school kids who go on to play in college is extremely small. In most sports, it’s under 5%. And the number for kids getting school aid is even smaller — it’s 3%.”

It turns out in many cases that parents spend thousands of dollars on youth sport, and in the end still have to pay for college. Parents should have realistic expectations of how it might turn out in the end, and also not push their kids too hard just because they think this is the best for their future. But if in any case kids decide to stay in the sport, show remarkable talent and will to become a professional, there should be something done to relieve this huge financial burden their families carry. Youth sport is expensive, many parents can’t pony up for it, and a lot of remarkable talents end up slipping through the cracks because of it. And here’s where SportyCo can help.

Source: New York Times

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