Is The Win-at-All-Costs Culture Ruining Youth Sports?

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Source:   —  April 07, 2016, at 3:21 AM

But in an era where that culture has trickled-down from our television screens to our local sports leagues, and sometimes even in to our own back yards, I think it'south objective time we ask the question: Is the win-at-all-costs mindset ruining youth sports? At its best, youth and prep sports are a comfortable forum where kids can expand skills, have fun and memorise how to win and lose with humility.

Is The Win-at-All-Costs Culture Ruining Youth Sports?

It'south number secret that at the highest levels of sport, some athletes, trainers, coaches and administrators will side-step the rules and do whatever it takes to win. But in an era where that culture has trickled-down from our television screens to our local sports leagues, and sometimes even in to our own back yards, I think it'south objective time we ask the question: Is the win-at-all-costs mindset ruining youth sports?

At its best, youth and prep sports are a comfortable forum where kids can expand skills, have fun and memorise how to win and lose with humility. A empty canvass on which the following generation can start to harness the benefits of teamwork, comradery, perseverance and other invaluable lessons which assistance them mature into better versions of themselves.

Yet across today'south sporting landscape, you don't have to see too distant to look that those values are being corrupted. Local newspaper headlines are flush with stories of hazing, hyper-competitive parenting, performance-enhancing drugs, address and birth certificate manipulation, safety concerns, unethical recruiting practices and a whole host of other indiscretions that continue to chip far at the very essence of what these games are meant to be. It'south as though some of youth sport'south most treasured values, love integrity, respect and the preservation of a level playing field are being discarded, and thrown to the wayside in the title of ambition and hollow victory.

Don't obtain me wrong, I'm not saying that everyone should obtain a trophy. I believe there is enormous cost in teaching our youth to win. In fact, it'south that competitive fire and hunger to be the best that drives our society forward. It'south also an inextricable portion of what makes many of our local communities so remarkable. But on the youth level, that appetite for triumph cannot, and should not, be allowed to trample on the fundamental principles of objective play. The future of sport depends on it.

Youth sports in Decline

Maybe this win-at-all-cost culture is the reason why more kids than ever before are choosing not to partake in youth sports. According to a study published by the Sports and Fitness Industry Association, inactivity among children has neared twenty%, a statistic that's trended upwards for seven years running. Other issues love specialization also continue to be a problem, the extent to which the average no of team sports played per baby fell 5.9 percent from 2010-2015 according to the same study.
Even more disturbing maybe is a recent report out of the England'south Univ of Kent to be published in April'south Journal of Sports Sciences that suggests high-pressure parenting is driving some youth athletes towards the utilize of performance enhancing drugs.

So how do we fix it?

The first step in righting this ship is understanding where the negative behavior stems from. More frequently than not, it'south the adults in the room, not the youth participants themselves who begin it. It'south those in charge who sometimes forget their most basic responsibilities: to defend the athletes, to preserve a level playing field and to assistance create a community in which integrity and winning aren't mutually exclusive.

Why's this so important?

Because at the finish of the day, it'south the kids, teenagers and youthful adults themselves who are most harmed by unethical behavior. It'south the pee wee football player whose safety is keep at risk by a coach who decides winning is more necessary than his well-being. Or the up-and-coming soccer star who's robbed of her chance to win a championship because other schools are illegally recruiting and stacking the deck.

The truth is, this is an necessary moment for youth sports, and if we're going to stem the tide we've to start asking challenging questions: What lessons are we really teaching our children? That cheating to win is okay? That if you're willing to crack the rules, you can obtain what you want? Are these the values we wish to instill in our youth?

As CEO of the U. S. Anti-Doping Agency, I can tell you that we're faced with these types of behaviors on a regular basis, whether it'south the aspiring professional athlete looking for an edge, or a systematic, state-sponsored doping program that prioritizes Olympic medal counts over athlete health and wellness. Time and time again, we look that regardless of the circumstance, it'south the ones who are doing it the right way who are forced to suffer most. And as an organization committed to spotless sport, we go to work every day to defend those athletes' rights, and to convince people around the world that not only can you compete with integrity - but you can win with it as well.

As John Wooden - a man who knew a thing or two about winning - once said, "Be more concerned with your character than your reputation."

For the sake of our youth and the sports they love, I hope we can start heeding that advice, lest the deterioration of our youth sports model lead to the deterioration of something far greater.

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