time magazine cover sports

Time Magazine Cover Story: How Kid Sports Turned Pro

This htedtszzky
week’s Time cover story may remind you of our post from last week, The Case Against Starting Serious Soccer Lessons Too Soon. Time’s cover is:

Crazy Travel. Crazy Costs. Crazy Stress.


Time’s press release summarized the issues perfectly (boldface mine):

This week’s TIME cover story focuses on the booming business that is overwhelming American families: the youth sports industry. Sean Gregory writes, “Across the nation, kids of all skill levels, in virtually every team sport, are getting swept up by a youth sports economy that increasingly resembles the pros and at increasingly early ages…. 

Gregory continues, “The cost for parents is steep. At the high end, families can spend more than 10% of their income on registration fees, travel, camps and equipment….  A range of private businesses are mining this deep, do-­anything parental love. The U.S. youth-sports economy—which includes everything from travel to private coaching to apps that organize leagues and livestream games—is now a $15.3 billion market, according to WinterGreen Research, a private firm that tracks the industry. And…the nation’s youth-sports industry has grown by 55% since 2010.”
*On the consequences of specializing in a single sport at an early age:

“According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, ‘burnout, anxiety, depression and attrition are increased in early specializers.’ The group says delaying specialization in most cases until late adolescence increases the likelihood of athletic success…. Devotion to a single sport may also be counterproductive to reaching that holy grail: the college scholarship.”

*On the role of the Internet:

“The Internet has emerged as a key middleman, equal parts sorting mechanism and hype machine. For virtually every sport, there is a site offering scouting reports and rankings…. Social-media-savvy parents now build Twitter and Instagram feeds around their young athletes.”

 *On the reality that only 2% of high school athletes go on to play at the top level of college sports:
Travis Dorsch, founding director of the Families in Sport Lab at Utah State University, tells TIME, “I’ve seen parents spend a couple of thousand dollars on sports. They could have just put that money aside to pay for the damn college.”

*On how the experience of the hypercharged kid’s sports environment is new for parents:

Jim Taylor, a sports psychologist, tells TIME, “When parents enter the youth sports development complex, they’re naïve. They absorb the message they hear most: ‘You mean, your kid’s not playing on a travel team? She’s not playing all the time? What’s wrong?’ It’s hard not to get sucked in, even for someone like myself, a quote-unquote expert on this stuff. Because I’m human. I’m a dad.”

One idea that could return some plain old playing, rather than adult-led performing, to kids’ lives is to keep schools open for free play after school, an idea I explain here. Kids still get a chance to play, but they organize their own games/teams/time, giving them less coaching, but more time to develop all the other skills we want them to get: leadership, focus, creativity, etc. etc. etc.

If your school is interested in exploring the idea, please drop me a line: Heylenore3@gmail.com .




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69 Responses to Time Magazine Cover Story: How Kid Sports Turned Pro

  1. Dienne August 30, 2017 at 10:28 am #

    How much of it is “love” and how much is an investment? My dad was an avid tennis player for years. He’d go to a fancy tennis club every Saturday morning, during a period that happened to be the block of time for kids’ lessons. He said when he first started, there was one class for all ages and they took up two or three courts. Then he said once the Williams sisters became famous, they started adding so many kid classes that you couldn’t even play on Saturday mornings – from 8:00 to noon every court was taken up with kids’ lessons, some for kids as young as two. He said a lot of the dads flat out admitted that they were hoping they were investing in their retirement fund.

  2. Melissa August 30, 2017 at 10:47 am #

    My daughter plays recreational soccer and volleyball. She’s 8. This past year we felt a little pressure to try travel soccer. “If they haven’t done it by 4th grade then forget it.” was a comment I received from another mother. Really? So we didn’t know what to do so we left it up to the 8 year old. She wavered back and forth until her final decision was that she didn’t want to play. We asked her why and she said that she didn’t want to sign up for something that made you do it all year long. Her words, meaning she didn’t want to make that kind of commitment. She’s only 8 so I felt like that was a very mature and introspective thing for her to say so we decided NOT to sign her up. She’s back in the rec league having fun and we’re able to balance it with rec volleyball. I dont think doing two sports would have been possible otherwise. Ask your kids if this is what they really want and then listen to them. Is it them or you?

  3. Theresa Hall August 30, 2017 at 11:23 am #

    I have said that there is nothing wrong with being on a team as long you don’t go my kid is going to be the next gold medalist. This sounds like a case of my kid is going to the Olympics. Sure winning is great but so is having fun and just giving your all and hoping for the best.

  4. J August 30, 2017 at 11:44 am #

    Yeah, the three culprits here are:

    1.) College sports: If you’re an athlete, you get to go to college for free. Pretty much no one else does. That by itself puts a ~$250,000 ‘grand prize’ for being an athlete at the end of it all, even if you then do not ‘go pro’ in any way. (‘Course ultimately those to blame are college sports *fans* but that’s another step removed…)

    2.) Families: There’s the aforementioned possible financial payday for having a sporty kid, but also those parents who are unable to parse “playing sports might be a fun and formative experience for my kid(s)” from “OMFG SPORTS!!!1!”

    3.) Coaches: In my experience, coaches of youth sports have NO sense of proportion or practicality. That old saw about coaches (and/or phys-ed teachers) being frustrated would-be professionals who flamed out and are stuck forever re-enacting their own frustrations using other people’s kids is no so much funny as true. Some of these people are nice, pro-kid people who genuinely want to impart their love of a game to youth. But a lot of others are semi-demented individuals who lack any sense of proportion or rationality (no, how about let’s DON’T have mandatory 6-day-a-week practice for 4th graders, okay?)

  5. John B. August 30, 2017 at 12:01 pm #

    Youth sports is much more developed and organized than it was in my day of the mid-1960s. BUT the glaring mistake I see that many parents make nowadays is the unrealistic hope, and sometimes assumption, that their kid will someday play on the professional level. It seems as if 7 out of 10 parents watching their youngster play youth football talk about the possibility of their little “Joshua” playing in the NFL. Yes, I know, it’s a wonderful thought to believe that my 10-year-old kid will someday be quarterback of the Green Bay Packers but the statistical truth is that very, very few youngsters will have the physical and athletic tools to play at the professional level, in any sport. We’re talking about the best athletes in the world! So no matter how many touchdowns little “Joshua” makes on his youth football team nor how many baskets little “Jason” makes on his youth basketball team nor how many goals little “Nicholas” scores on his youth soccer team, the talk about them playing on the professional level in their respective sport needs to stop. Because most likely, once they reach adulthood, they will resort to being a fan only and not a player no matter how good they were as kids!

  6. SKL August 30, 2017 at 12:02 pm #

    My kids do purely rec / school stuff, but sometimes I do feel the pressure when I see other parents post their kids’ wow achievements. (Others might say the same about me, I don’t know, but my kids have no hopes of pro or Olympic level stuff, and they are OK with that.)

    It probably helps that I’m a single mom and travel type stuff ain’t gonna happen. 😛 Would I enjoy seeing my kids do that, sure, but nobody knows better than I how limited time and resources are.

    Now … is it true that my kids’ college apps are gonna suck because they don’t have a huge accomplishment to boast? We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.

  7. James Pollock August 30, 2017 at 12:24 pm #

    “Yeah, the three culprits here are:

    1.) College sports: If you’re an athlete, you get to go to college for free.”

    Or maybe a nice private high school. There’s one of these in Oregon that tends to dominate high-school sports, in part because whereas the public schools take whoever lives in their district, the private school can recruit. Then again, they ALSO are known for rigorous academics and academic success, as well (they can recruit in those areas, too.)
    The happen to be in the same athletic league as the high school I went to (back in the day) and now are in the same athletic league as the large suburban high school my daughter went to.

  8. Jen August 30, 2017 at 12:40 pm #

    When my son was in 2nd grade, the kids at school played baseball during recess. My very non-athletic son joined in and loved the game, despite not playing very well. By 4th grade, we decided he could join the local rec. league. Most of the kids in the league also played competitive travel baseball, and had been playing since preschool in T-ball leagues. *Some* of the coaches understood that this was rec. ball, and tried their best to work with my son to improve his skills at the game he loved. But, most were all about the win. It was rec. league, and we had 2 practices and 2 games a week. I can’t imagine what the parents of the kids who were ALSO in Travel leagues had to do! After 2 years, my son decided he didn’t want to do it anymore. Too much time and stress. its a shame. He still loves the game, but there’s no opportunity for him to play.

  9. M. Callahan August 30, 2017 at 12:46 pm #

    If its $2000. That’s cheap for college. What we need is free public higher education. In a few years…4 years can be 250,000

  10. Mya Greene August 30, 2017 at 12:57 pm #

    This should all be led by the child. Let them decide which sports to play and how serious they are. Support it as much is financially and logistically feasible, and encourage them to have backup plans.

    But I do agree that the fees can be just outrageous. The sister of a musician I used to playwith was in a travel volleyball club that cost roughly $6000 a year up front, but this did not include any travel expenses, accommodations, equipment, or administrative fees. I don’t even think it was a full-time job for any of the coaches. I frequently asked myself where it was all going.
    I feel like some of these organizations should be required to publicly disclose what the fees pay for.

  11. San August 30, 2017 at 1:11 pm #

    I’m essentially in agreement with what is said in this and previous article. I grew up in Europe, played semi professionally, but didn’t start playing soccer seriously until I was 10. I find it mind blowing to have that kind of specialization that early in life.

    However, if I may play devils advocate here. I’m all for free play, unfortunately I don’t really see it around me. My friends kids in Sweden are so much freer than the kids on our block here. I never see kids go out and play spontaneously and the kids in the park at a fairly old age as 8-9 still have their parents hovering over them.

    So the problem is essentially, if my 5 year old son isn’t signed up for various activities, all he’s really gonna do the coming years I stay inside and play on his iPad.

    So frankly I do prefer him in different activities. I play tennis with him myself since I’m an avid tennis player and this fall he will play soccer, gymnastics and swimming once a week. I most likely will switch sports to climbing, hockey etc depending on season and not having him do same sport more than once a week on anything.

    But that said, as much as I love the idea of free play. I really don’t see it in our neighborhood and considering the alternative, I prefer to take him to practice.

    And no, I have no plans of getting him a scorship, even though I actually played at a fairly high level myself at one point.

  12. Amy August 30, 2017 at 1:11 pm #

    Or youth sports organizations can find a way to significantly lower their costs and fees. If a KIDS sports organization is charging thousands of dollars worth in fees and registration they don’t care about the kids. It’s a big business to make money and that’s it.

  13. James August 30, 2017 at 1:31 pm #

    A lot of it’s being driven by parents–it’s cliché that parents get into physical altercations over calls at kids’ games. Part of it is the drive of coaches, who are frequently wanna-be pros.

    But I think there are more subtle issues here.

    For example: It’s nearly impossible to play a sport and NOT be in an organized group. What I mean is, baseball fields, football fields, soccer fields, tennis courts, and the rest are all booked solid. There’s nowhere to play pickup games. When that’s the case, the idea of non-competitive play simply doesn’t enter into people’s thoughts.

    Second, as someone else said, it’s all about the win. I mean, it always has been–if you ever watch young kids playing a competitive game you’ll see that–but it’s no longer about winning a particular game these days; the kids I know in sports are all focused on the tournaments. They treat sports extremely seriously. That automatically precludes folks who just want to play for fun. I mean sure, if I play basketball I want my team to win–but if I lose, meh, I had fun. If the rest of the team is so focused on winning that they can’t enjoy just playing the game, I’m not going to stick around that crew for long. This leads to a natural attrition until all you’re left with are the ones that treat that sport as if it were life itself.

    Of course, as usual G. K. Chesterton said it best: when playing sports means playing them well, the society is sick. Sports should be open to everyone, and if everyone is playing them we should expect a rather dismal average performance. If “playing X sport” means “playing it at a professional level”, we’re no longer playing it at all.

    As for the idea of sports as “investment”, I knew some parents growing up that thought their kids would be pro one day. My family all thought they were idiots. No one from where I grew up has ever made it to pro sports. The odds of it happening are about on par with winning the lottery. If you’re treating it as a business investment, you’re screwed up and screwing up your kids.

  14. SanityAnyone? August 30, 2017 at 1:32 pm #

    Sports? That sounds like something my kids can sign up for in middle school if it sounds like fun. I’m busy making a fuss that I have to now attend football games to see my son play quads in marching band. I do want to see the halftime show. Maybe there are percussion scholarships?

  15. Dean August 30, 2017 at 1:40 pm #

    When I was sports editor for a small community newspaper, I attended the grand opening of the season for a Little League. I was totally disgusted when the league president pointed at the minor leaguers in their T-shirts, and whatever belt, pants and footwear they happened to have. Mr. President broke out in a stream of foul language telling the little guys he didn’t want them holding their pants up with a Cub Scout belt, “I don’t want any __________ Cub Scouts in our league.”
    A neighboring league told players they would “sit on the bench” if they failed to show for practice every day and that on game days, Saturdays and Sundays, too, if their parents were not present, and they’d better not miss a game by going to church instead. Strange, back then, Little League rules didn’t allow games on Sunday.
    Sorts and “other life” can co-exist. One of my long ago Eagle Scouts continued to serve as an altar boy while he was in high school, and he was his school’s top linebacker, too.

  16. Mya Greene August 30, 2017 at 1:40 pm #


    Many sports require just an empty lot of sorts in order to do a pick up game. Most public parks would work great for this purpose. Games such as soccer are very popular in countries where all they have is a little bit of dirt to play on. Having kids organize their own informal games would teach them so much that having it all done for them all the time cannot.

  17. C. S. P. Schofield August 30, 2017 at 1:42 pm #


    (about a marble game, but applies to all Jr. sports too)

    “Most of all, did you ever in your whole life conceive of a grownup coming round and having the effrontery to butt into a game? It wasn’t only that he would be silly, he wouldn’t know. Also it was none of his goddamned business.”


    “Kids, as far as I can tell you, don’t do things like that anymore. There’s always some interfering grownup around being a pal to them, telling them where to put their feet when they stand at the plate. We found out. Stand the way you wanted to and there was everybody on your side hollering “Take your foot out of the bucket,” and you took your foot out of the bucket.

  18. James Pollock August 30, 2017 at 1:47 pm #

    “Maybe there are percussion scholarships?”

    There are. “kids” who play in the college halftime show get paid. It’s not a full ride. It’s not even close, more like pizza money. But it is what it is. If you want to make the big bucks hitting things with sticks, you need to be hitting baseballs and hockey pucks, not drums. Or join Spinal Tap. I hear they’ve an opening for a drummer…

  19. James Pollock August 30, 2017 at 1:52 pm #

    “Many sports require just an empty lot of sorts in order to do a pick up game.”

    Well, it needs to be reasonably level, free of foreign objects, and people who want to use the space for something else.
    In my area, the local recreation district maintains (and controls) most of the fields that are suitable for use, and schedules them weeks and months in advance. That said, the most popular “sport” amongst the young lads is wallball, which takes two persons, a flat hard surface, a solid wall, and nobody nearby to complain about the repetitive noise. The school is lined with such, with conveniently painted lines on the ground and the walls, and they’re open whenever the school is not.

    The big open (but not level) field at the local elementary school is MUCH more likely to be occupied by people exercising their dogs, not their kids. (YMMV)

  20. lollipoplover August 30, 2017 at 2:00 pm #

    “The U.S. youth-sports economy—which includes everything from travel to private coaching to apps that organize leagues and livestream games—is now a $15.3 billion market”

    It’s a for-profit business and important to keep that in mind. We have 3 kids and have avoided being sucked into the vortex of hyper-competitive sports and their hyper-inflated costs, thankfully. Both my husband and I were college athletes and now enjoy volunteer coaching at the rec league level where it’s still $60-80 per season and we have thriving community level sports. We’ve found this to be our ‘sweet spot’ to keep them active and playing with friends and enjoying seasonal sports.

    Parents that brag about their kids being on travel teams are people I usually try to get far away from at parties. Or I ask them if they play sports themselves because they sure seem to enjoy it. If a family wants to spend thousands on their athlete at young ages, that is totally up to them, but we have been very frank and honest with our kids about our family budget and the money we have for extras like sports, vacations, hobbies, etc. Most of the time they have chosen travel adventures over travel teams.

  21. Amy August 30, 2017 at 2:32 pm #

    It also comes down to parents think that their kids need to be busy and supervised at all times. The logic that if they aren’t busy they’re are all in front of screens or causing trouble. It’s simply not true, if a kid when they get old is determined to experiment with drugs/alcohol, party rebel what have you they will find a way whether you keep them busy or not. Because that’s what they are determined to do, they’ll figure it out.

  22. James August 30, 2017 at 2:55 pm #

    “Many sports require just an empty lot of sorts in order to do a pick up game.”

    True, and I remember playing soccer, baseball, badmittin, and other games just in the back yard. That said, there are many that do not–basketball, for example.

    But it’s more the psychological effect that I’m talking about. If you see kids routinely playing soccer in someone’s back yard, and you want to play soccer, that’s what you look for. If, on the other hand, you only ever see soccer being played by teams with matching uniforms, on carefully-maintained grass fields, with coaches and refs and parents and snack venders and the rest, then when you think of playing soccer THAT’S what you’ll think of. “Playing soccer” won’t mean the activity, it’ll mean the tournament.

    What this means is that BEFORE KIDS START PLAYING they’ve shut themselves out. If they think “I want to play soccer” they’ll be thinking of leagues and tournaments and expensive equipment, not going out in the backyard and playing with their siblings/neighbors.

    I’ve seen it with science. Physicists in particular think science requires huge datasets with thousands of replications and p values of <0.005 or so. Paleontologists are happy with a dataset of 2 (us vertebrate folks are thrilled to have a dataset consisting of 0.5–half a skeleton is a dream come true!). When you hear physicists talking about how to fix problems in science they talk about huge datasets and precise statistics and things that simply don't matter. That's their default setting for "science". Similarly, the default setting for "sports" in our culture is professional or pseudo-professional sports.

  23. lollipoplover August 30, 2017 at 2:57 pm #

    @Amy- interesting about the drugs/alcohol as my oldest son (16) says the kids who party the hardest are on the baseball team and golf team(big pot smokers)!

    He was good friends with many of these kids when they all played in house baseball together (9-12’s) and summer golf league. He played one season of travel baseball during the hottest summer ever and was miserable. There were kids on his team with $400 bats that threw them on the ground and cursed that they had crap equipment when they struck out. These same kids now play travel ball and have been busted several times for underaged drinking and drug possession.

    He doesn’t play baseball anymore. He started his own business and has been incredibly busy all summer long making a ton of money. He plays lots of pickup basketball games, though. Night games on our community courts when temps are cooler attract many teens. I don’t think sports are a magic bullet to keep kids out of trouble! My son’s former teammates had plenty of $$ for elite sports and also for recreational drugs and court costs, apparently.

  24. Amy August 30, 2017 at 3:04 pm #

    Lolli, i’m sorry about you son. But, this is what I was talking about, many people do think sports are the magic bullet to keep their kids out from under screens all the time and out of trouble. Kids in school that I knew who were doing drugs, there weren’t many of them, were the straight A students, high level athletes, part time jobs kind of kids. Many assume sports will stop that from happening.

  25. Emily August 30, 2017 at 4:29 pm #

    >>Lolli, i’m sorry about you son. But, this is what I was talking about, many people do think sports are the magic bullet to keep their kids out from under screens all the time and out of trouble. Kids in school that I knew who were doing drugs, there weren’t many of them, were the straight A students, high level athletes, part time jobs kind of kids. Many assume sports will stop that from happening.<<

    Actually, I'd argue that, when taken to extremes, sports can be part of the problem. Imagine you're seventeen years old. You get straight A's, you have a part-time job to make some extra money, and you excel at, say, basketball (I'm picking basketball in the interest of gender ambiguity). You used to really enjoy basketball, but now you're on the varsity basketball team at school, and you play travel basketball outside of school, and keeping up with basketball, and school, and friends, and helping out around the house, gets REALLY overwhelming sometimes, ESPECIALLY since this is the year you're applying for college. Before every game, there's talk of college scouts coming to observe various players on the team, and it's between you and Jump Shot Jayden (again, gender ambiguity–Jayden could be a boy or a girl). You've told your parents that you'd like to cut down on basketball, or maybe not take AP-level EVERYTHING, but all that has fallen on deaf ears, because they NEED you to excel in school, excel on the courts, excel socially, for the sake of college scholarships, and, let's be honest, their bragging rights, because all their friends' children seem to be straight-A students and varsity athletes (or first-chair musicians, or rising stars in the drama club, or whatever the equivalent of "varsity athlete" is for their respective activities). So, since you can't get off this pedestal-slash-hamster-wheel that the adults have placed you on, when a friend of yours (who nobody really pays attention to, since Friend is only a second-stringer, and also gets B's from time to time) slips you a joint at a party, you can't resist. The release is temporary, but you crave it.

    Anyway, I know this sounds crazy, but it does happen–I saw it happen at my high school, and in university, although alcohol was a more popular drug of choice than marijuana, and marijuana was much more popular than any of the "hard" drugs. But, if adults turn to controlled or illicit substances to alleviate stress from their jobs, it stands to reason that young people will do the same, when school and elite sports, and maintaining the façade of being a "perfect teenager," become THEIR "jobs."

  26. Mya Greene August 30, 2017 at 4:49 pm #

    These last few comments also raise the question of just how much we should criminalize and stigmatize the usage of certain substances. Sure there are healthier coping methods, and we probably shouldn’t put so much pressure on certain people, but our approach of prison and ostracism rather than rehabilitation and support certainly adds fuel to the fire.

  27. lollipoplover August 30, 2017 at 4:52 pm #

    @Amy-Oh, don’t feel bad for him, he’s made some wise decisions regarding sports and how he wants to spend his free time. Dropping baseball in the Spring gave him more time to fish…something he’s really passionate about (and environmental sciences- what he wants to major in college) and we never put pressure on our kids with sports.

    Athletes have to REALLY love a sport to practice/train/travel/compete at higher levels. Most young kids just want to play. As a coach and a parent, I’ve always emphasized fun, friends, and fitness. It’s a game, not your life. That’s why we’ve found the best fit with rec leagues. I’m coaching field hockey again this Fall. We even have loaner sticks for the girls to keep costs down and do a practice followed by a game once a week. We partner with the high school team and these girls help run practice and games by refing and working one on one with the girls.
    It’s FUN.
    Practicing 4x a week and multiple games is more like WORK. Not fun. Especially for little kids.
    Maybe some (the 2%) but most kids would pick fun…and friends.

  28. Garfield Pennington August 30, 2017 at 4:53 pm #

    I believe the piece about Kids Sports is one of the most important messages that Free Range Kids has ever sent out. Well-intentioned but misguided parents and community coaches are robbing children of their rights and the need kids have to develop responsibility through organizing and managing their own affairs. The early selection and specialization process is insidious. Even if we are concerned about developing top-level athletes, we are going about things the wrong way when we neglect and dismiss late maturing youth who, if given the chance, can become very accomplished in sports. When we set about replicating the equipment, management, rewards, coaching practices, and other aspects of professional sport in the worlds of children and youth we are truly off-base in the ways we engage with young people.
    A huge, universal cultural need is for us to return the game to the original owner, who is the child.

    Garfield Pennington, EdD, Associate Professor Emeritus, University of British Columbia

  29. Donald August 30, 2017 at 5:03 pm #

    We’ve seen examples on here that many people believe that the more you hover, the more you love your children. Hence, if you don’t hover that means that you don’t love them!

    Today’s post says a similar message. The more you spend on your children, the more you love them. Hence. if you don’t spend (until it hurts) that means that you don’t love them!

  30. hineata August 30, 2017 at 5:10 pm #

    It surprises me that in the ‘Land of the Free’ public schools aren’t just open to public use. It is just a given in NZ that (with only one exception I can think of ) public schools are open areas after school for anyone to play. Some adults take advantage of the open fields to practice their ‘Masters’ leagues too. Public schools are paid for with public funds, and provided people use them sensibly they should be open after hours to all.

    I used to cut through the local high school too during school hours because it was a short cut to the shops, but for a variety of reasons that sort of thing is no longer ‘kosher’.

    Not that America is in any way alone in not living up to its slogans. We are generally thought of as a happy-go-lucky country, yet our suicide level is ridiculously high .

  31. James August 30, 2017 at 5:18 pm #

    “It’s a game, not your life.”

    YES! I’ve met too many people who forget that–parents pushing their kids to excel at sports, fans who spend all their free time thinking about sports, etc. Sports are games: entertaining, and useful ways to make physical fitness fun, but ultimately frivolous.

    To make matters worse, we have more or less conclusive evidence that pushing kids into sports like tackle football and soccer (where head-butting the ball is allowed, anyway) can cause irreparable damage to our children’s brains. We are literally crippling our children over a game. I simply cannot understand that concept.

    I’ve nothing against sports as entertainment. I’ve played baseball, basketball, volleyball, badmitin, tennis, wallyball, and other sports, and enjoyed all of them. But people need to regain a sense of perspective. A game isn’t worth damaging your children, or destroying their childhood!

  32. James Pollock August 30, 2017 at 5:21 pm #

    “It surprises me that in the ‘Land of the Free’ public schools aren’t just open to public use.”

    That’s probably because they ARE open to public use.

  33. Rebel mom August 30, 2017 at 5:34 pm #

    Garfield Pennington – I loved the last line you wrote about returning sports back to kids.

    I wonder when this madness started??

    Kids play games naturally and it’s wonderful fun until it’s organized, coach led, involves set times and days, people cheering at games (that’s wierd, really, when they’re less than highschool age), uniforms and fees. Jeesh, all you need is a ball and an open area. A yard will do in a pinch.

    Step back parents and let your kids play! Without you or a coach or a team or a practice schedule.

  34. Amy August 30, 2017 at 5:42 pm #

    I suspect the madness began in the early 2,000’s. Things seemed to take a dramatic swing competiveness and parents started not allow their kids as much freedom.

  35. JulieC August 30, 2017 at 8:47 pm #

    The notion that if your kid is great at a sport you can count on a four -year full-ride scholarship is simply wrong, but a common mistake made by young parents, I’ve found.

    First off, division three schools can’t give out sports scholarships. Division one schools can, but those can be extremely competitive to get. And, it depends on the sport. Colleges have a finite amount of money to give out for sports scholarships and as you can imagine, the more lucrative sports, such as football, tend to be the sports allocated the most money for scholarships. For many sports, they might give you a scholarship to cover your books, for example.

    What is more likely, is that a very talented high school athlete can get a leg up on admissions at many selective schools. Our high school sends usually six to eight kids a year to the Ivy League. Most years, all but one or two are admitted for sports. They don’t get scholarships, either, unless they meet the financial aid requirements, since the Ivy League gives out need-based aid, not merit aid. Now, students still need to meet some minimum grade and test requirements to play football at Yale, for example, but they are placed in a separate admissions pool than the rest of the gazillion kids trying to get into Yale.

    I’ve also found that it can be a bit of a crapshoot. I knew of a kid who got into a very selective school to swim and he thought he was all set until the university let the coach go and the new coach wanted a different swimmer and so the offer was rescinded. I also know of a kid who did swim one year at a very good private college. The second year, the school recruited a very talented kid who just happened to swim faster than the other kid in specific events. Kid number one was dropped from the team as a sophomore. Now, he still attended school there, but didn’t swim anymore. And of course, there are always injuries that can sideline an athlete.

  36. Beth August 30, 2017 at 8:48 pm #

    “Maybe there are percussion scholarships?”

    My daughter got an oboe scholarship – it wasn’t a full ride, or even 1/4 of a full ride! But it was money the school gave to help her be able to afford to go to their school and play the oboe.

  37. Trollbuster August 30, 2017 at 10:19 pm #

    James Pollock

    Get a life. To spend all your time on this website annoying members and contributing to verbal pollution is a waste. Please go back to your hole / cave / cavern / hallow and retreat from us all.

  38. Diane August 30, 2017 at 10:45 pm #

    I’ve mentioned it before, but Mark Hyman’s book “The Most Expensive Game in Town” is a good read. It also lays out some of the history of youth sports in the US.

  39. Mya Greene August 30, 2017 at 11:00 pm #

    “Maybe there are percussion scholarships?”

    To add to this, I got scholarships for both viola and music composition, but they are basically work-study, because one condition is that I either play in the school orchestra or sing in the university choir. Other school ensembles, even for-credit ones don’t satisfy the condition.

  40. Katie G August 31, 2017 at 6:30 am #

    One trouble I’ve found is that there’s not an in-between from rec and big-time team commitments. My 11-year-old daughter does well in gymnastics; I would like it if there were a class that met twice or three times at most for an hour or 90 minutes, rather than merely one hour a week. My husband and I come from a music background in which you had your lesson each week and then practiced at home. That’s not really possible for gymnastics. We don’t have any big dreams, just want her to be able to practice more!

  41. Dejah Thoris August 31, 2017 at 12:02 pm #

    As my kids have gotten past the preschool stage, I’ve found it very sad that there seem to be very few rec opportunities. Nearly everything is competitive in our area. They are very limited in their choices for sports because we don’t see the value in sacrificing 4-5 hours per day in gymnastics and dealing with frequent major overwork injuries, spending more on a required dance recital costume than I spent on my wedding dress, or spending the majority of our time running to practices, games and meets (and what do you do when you have more than one kid and they like different sports?!) We’ve found a track team that allows kids to be as competitive as they like while still letting kids to do it just for fun, but I have a 10 year old daughter who thinks soccer looks fun but there are no non-insanely competitive options for her to try it out.

    I have multiple friends who can’t go camping during the summer, can’t go to family reunions or any sort of get -together, and skip out on graduations, weddings and baby showers because their child has baseball or swimming or track. I have friends working numerous jobs to pay for these high-priced camps – we’re talking thousands of dollars for a four day long camp per kid.

  42. Kirsten August 31, 2017 at 1:05 pm #

    It’s sometimes easy to start believing that we are going to have to teach an entire generation how to “play.” As in, play by themselves with other kids. Do kids even know what to do when left alone together outdoors? Or do they just stand there waiting for someone to tell them or counting blades of grass until they can go back inside and play video games? Has it all really become this extreme?

  43. Donald August 31, 2017 at 5:47 pm #


    Don’t you find Trollbuster annoying? That’s the way we feel about you sometimes. You’re a Jekyll and Hyde. Sometimes your posts are very insightful, well thought out, and brilliantly written. However, there are other times when your responses are amazingly stupid! During times like this, I think that you’re about as annoying as finding gum on the bottom of my shoe! This is may be how you feel towards Trollbuster

  44. Donald August 31, 2017 at 6:12 pm #

    “That’s probably because they ARE open to public use.”

    This looks to me like you’re slipping into Mr. Hyde mode again.
    Many schools are surrounded by a high-security fence that gets locked when school isn’t in session. During this time, the playground is off limits to public use. Children have nowhere to play. This limits their activity and encourages them to:
    vegetate on Facebook
    drink beer and smoke dope

    If they want to engage in sports, the family must commit to a strict schedule that may involve the high cost that’s outlined in this article.

  45. lollipoplover August 31, 2017 at 6:30 pm #

    @Donald- our public school grounds are available to students…for a price.

    My daughter bikes to school and cannot arrive even a few minutes early. She’d love to stay on the playground after school but only the aftercare kids can use it- and they pay for it.

    Unfortunately, free play isn’t free anymore. I do wish there were more opportunities and places for kids to play, like public schools. Ours is off limits unless your a paying customer.

  46. Donald August 31, 2017 at 9:50 pm #

    “our public school grounds are available to students…for a price.”

    This is news to me but it makes sense. I think it sucks that this happens but it’s not easy to figure out who is at fault for this. School administration? Insurance companies? Lawyers? or the Safety Industrial Complex?

    The school budget is so stringent that they ‘rob Peter in order to pay Paul’. They waste money feeding the S.I.C. that they have to scrounge in order to pay for their insurance or to educate. In most schools, there are more administrators on the staff then there are teachers! I don’t believe that this is the school’s choice but they are doing it under duress.

  47. James Pollock August 31, 2017 at 11:13 pm #

    “Don’t you find Trollbuster annoying?”

    Not in the least bit. You?

    “However, there are other times when your responses are amazingly stupid!”

    Do you have any hobbies BESIDES insulting people on the Internet?

    “Many schools are surrounded by a high-security fence that gets locked when school isn’t in session.”

    OK. I’ve never seen such a thing, but I’ll take your word for it. Public schools are still public buildings. It’s right there in the name. So if the local school that you wanted to use publicly has such a “high-security fence”, then it sounds like someone who wanted to use that property would want to find out how to get this “high-security fence” UNlocked. Or if that isn’t forthcoming, pursue local politics (here, the office to pursue would be something called the “Local School Committee”. ( https://www.oregonlaws.org/ors/2007/330.430 ). It may be called something else wherever you are. Or move to one of the OTHER 99.9% of school districts.

  48. SKL September 1, 2017 at 12:40 am #

    Where I live, there are plenty of parks, and the schoolyards are not locked up outside of school hours. You still don’t see too many kids playing at such places without their parents around watching / guiding.

    This reminds me of a “horror story” that another mom told me the other day. Her kid was riding her bike to the pool, Mom was following a bit behind. A man in a truck asked her daughter where the pool was. That’s it. The whole story. Except for the part where the mom was absolutely certain that guy did NOT want to know where the pool was, he was trying to lure her kid to his truck so he could snatch her and do all sorts of horrible things to her. :/

    This of course was mentioned to me especially because I let my daughters ride their bikes around the neighborhood. :/

  49. Annie Gramson Hill September 1, 2017 at 3:05 am #

    Wow – this is insane. I knew about the travel teams out there but had no idea it was a massive industry.
    The unrealistic pressure it puts on kids is just the tip of the iceberg. Putting so much emphasis on sports prevents kids from well-rounded development in other areas, including emotional, social and psychological development.
    I wish this Time magazine piece had explored how common it is for parents to live vicariously through their children on the ball fields, and take all of these games way too seriously, which increases the likelihood of emotional and psychological disturbance around the sport,
    It just takes the fun out of playing games, which is part of what I think Lenore was suggesting with her opinion piece on the topic. The idea should be for kids to have free play enabling the development of teamwork and other skills as well as the freedom to explore creativity through games and sports.
    Creativity is just one of the important things that gets sacrificed with this obsession on sports, and it’s unsettling to think about what all of this regimentation could lead to. Increasing depression and anxiety, which was mentioned, but also people increasingly in need of someone else to think for them.
    This is just another symptom of a society that has gone off the rails.
    And our kids should be in gym class daily, because habits towards fitness need to be internalized at a young age, everyone knows it’s harder to develop new habits in adulthood, it’s simple common sense.
    And yet collectively we scratch our heads over the epidemic of obesity as if we haven’t a clue how this could be happening.
    This is truly a depressing trend, and I really am beginning to despair that our society is going to continue on this trajectory of increasing insanity. How sad.

  50. Donald September 1, 2017 at 5:13 am #

    Ok, perhaps high-security fencing is an Australian thing. I assumed by the many posts about the growing Gestapo security and bullet proof whiteboard/shields that they also have them in the US as well. Perhaps they don’t.

  51. Jessica September 1, 2017 at 5:26 am #

    People like to exaggerate. Some schools are surrounded by a short chain-link fence. (The kind that a toddler can’t escape from; my six year old can easily climb them.). That’s as far as it goes. My local school’s fence doesn’t lock or anything, so it’s always “open.” There are certain times you can’t use it, like if the after-school childcare is using it. On weekends though, it serves as a town park.

  52. test September 1, 2017 at 6:09 am #

    @Donald All schools here have fence around them. The doors in those fences are open outside of school hours and you can walk in and use them. Adults use them mainly for running track.

  53. James Pollock September 1, 2017 at 6:57 am #

    “Ok, perhaps high-security fencing is an Australian thing. I assumed by the many posts about the growing Gestapo security and bullet proof whiteboard/shields that they also have them in the US as well. Perhaps they don’t.”

    So… you took time out of your day to call me stupid, and not just regular stupid but “amazingly” stupid, because I told you that American public schools are open to the public? And, at the time you were scolding me for saying this, you had zero knowledge of American schools and their fencing and security policies? Is that what happened? Am I mischaracterizing the situation in any way?

    You, sir, are a twit. I shall treat your opinion accordingly in future.

    “There are certain times you can’t use it, like if the after-school childcare is using it.”

    Are you certain that this is the case? The afterschool daycare that operates out of the local elementary school has permission to use the school’s playgrounds and fields while it operates, but they don’t have EXCLUSIVE access. Other members of the public can walk up and use them between the end of the school and when it’s too dark.

  54. SKL September 1, 2017 at 8:32 am #

    This story made me ask myself why I have had my kids in sports. Would it be useful for each of us to ask ourselves that question? I have had different reasons over the years. Some for the kids’ or family’s benefit (health, certain skill sets). But to be honest, some of my reasons are selfish. I delegate some of my parental responsibility to the coaches / teachers. For example, my kids’ Saturday chores tend to be organized by the owner of the barn where they ride horses. To some extent they “develop character” by dealing with other people instead of me. Call that what you like. 😛 I also happen to like watching the kids play. And I like a good excuse to get out of the house rather than work all of my waking hours.

    I can’t speak for people who put their kids in expensive, extremely time-sucking activities. I’d like to think it’s because the kids have a passion for it, and the parents say these activities are character-developing, but I’m not them. This is something that needs to be judged on a case-by-case basis. For some kids it’s more a need than anything else. Some of the people I know with kids in competitive dance say their kid needs the hours of exercise every day, and the kids seem happy doing it, so as long as it’s not hitting my pocketbook, I’m good. In my area, there are still enough rec options if my kids really want to dance. (They don’t at the moment. :P)

  55. lollipoplover September 1, 2017 at 8:42 am #

    @James Pollock- Our play yard/playground has a large gate to close it off from the road (it is used as an overflow parking lot during drop off and pick up times) and after school, the gate closes with a sign:”Playground reserved for aftercare students” or something to that extent. No non-paying kids can *mix* with the paying customers! They go to parks in the neighborhood instead or friend’s houses with basketball hoops, etc.

    My kids have always wanted to get to school early in the mornings. Unfortunately, there are also very strict 15 minute windows when kids can be dropped off. If your child arrives early (I’m talking 5-10 minutes), they get a lecture that they are not allowed on school property unsupervised. Yet they can cut bus service and tell kids to bike and walk to school and this is fine?They cannot come in the school (even if it’s freezing and raining out) with the before school kids unless they pay for this service. The gym is also off limits and reserved for before care and aftercare kids.

    My neighbor has to catch a train to the city for work and gets her 3 kids out the door 25 min. early every day so she can make her train and her kids bike to school. The school told her she cannot have the kids arrive 10 minutes early and she must enroll them in before care for $120 a week per child. She has tbem bike around our street for those 10 minutes instead. They cannot stand there and wait quietly without supervision.

    So now if they arrive early to school, they stand over at on a neighbor’s porch that is next to school property so they don’t get yelled at…for being early for school! I understand the need to these programs for working parents. But I also think it’s a racket.

  56. test September 1, 2017 at 9:34 am #

    @SKL I enjoyed organized sport and I think I learned a lot there. Overcome physical discomfort and you will be able to achieve more, that sort of thing. That training can be really enjoyable once you get to use to it. Socially, contact with kids who did not went to selective high school. It also exposed me to peer group that spent some of their time trying to be good at sport as opposed to spend it by chatting about movies and music only. On the negative side, I also learned to drink and smoke. Also, I think that a bit of experience with competition made me better able to handle failures and pressure later on. Too much of it is not good, but some exposure is good.

    It is not just delegating parenting to coach. It is also being in peer group of people who are active and not wimpy. Peers do more then adults trying to teach you something. Later during college trips I was surprised how little discomfort it takes for some people to be offputted.

    Also, and it may be biased statistics, people who did organized sport seem to continue to do sport in adulthood more often then those for whom the sport was just something they joined for social reasons. I still like sport my parents choosen for me (I did not cared either way) – I learned to like it in club.

    I want something similar for my kids.

  57. Melissa J September 1, 2017 at 10:36 am #

    I posted on this topic a few weeks ago here, but I’ll reiterate: If you happen to be a Christian family, Upward sports are the way to go! (I hope other faith communities have something similar?). I love how they weave in values and morals during the coaching, and the kids learn Bible verses. It really keeps the sport in perspective and instills the right attitude. Best of all, Upward sports are inexpensive and very neatly organized… one 1-hour practice per week and one game. All at the same church. You can put all your kids in soccer, or basketball, or flag football, and they’ll even try to get the practices on the same night for your family. All the games on Saturday mornings are back-to-back by age group. The family gets to stay together for all of this, and it uses minimal time out of your week! I wish there were secular leagues that worked this well too. We’ve done a sport or two through the county parks and rec here, but it’s not nearly as well structured and family-oriented as far as time and togetherness.

    I feel so sad for these families who get split apart most of the week for travel sports, with no family dinner (statistically key to success in later life!) and all their money going to the sport instead of family vacations, college, retirement….

  58. James September 1, 2017 at 12:16 pm #

    “I delegate some of my parental responsibility to the coaches / teachers.”

    That’s not a bad thing, necessarily. Kids need to experience other ways of doing things. Helping my grandfather on the farm did a LOT to make me grow up. Sports does that for some kids. Scouting for others. Drama clubs, year book staff, and other such activities do it for others. Regardless, there’s nothing wrong with sending the kids away to learn some things.

    It becomes pathological when instead of learning life lessons, the focus is on winning that sport. Learning discipline and teamwork and how to push through when you don’t want to are vital to adulthood; knowing how to throw a ball through a hoop, or kick a ball really far, or whatever, not so much.

  59. Donald September 1, 2017 at 5:39 pm #


    I stand by what I said. You’re a Jekyll and Hyde. Sometimes you make very good comments. Other times, not so. I wrongly assessed your comment about a fenced school. However, your reputation goes way back.

  60. Donald September 1, 2017 at 6:35 pm #


    hineata commented that the public schools in NZ are not so public. You then had to argue about New Zeland schools. This is why I said that it looks like you’re slipping back into Mr. Hyde mode.

    You proved to me that you were when you argued with Jessica

    “There are certain times you can’t use it, like if the after-school childcare is using it.”

    “Are you certain that this is the case? The afterschool daycare that operates out of the local elementary school has permission to use the school’s playgrounds and fields while it operates, but they don’t have EXCLUSIVE access”

  61. James Pollock September 1, 2017 at 6:41 pm #

    “I stand by what I said.”

    Right. And, now that we have established that insulting people is your hobby, and that you are quite prepared to state things as ironclad fact when you do not have any idea what you are talking about, your opinion will be given the full consideration it is due.

    “Our play yard/playground has a large gate to close it off from the road (it is used as an overflow parking lot during drop off and pick up times) and after school, the gate closes with a sign:”Playground reserved for aftercare students” or something to that extent”

    Ah, OK, then, that sounds like pretty good evidence that your schools are run differently than mine are!
    Sounds like the next recourse is the involvement in local politics I talked about earlier.

  62. James Pollock September 1, 2017 at 6:51 pm #

    ” your reputation goes way back.”


    “You then had to argue about New Zeland schools.”

    Sure, except for the pesky fact that I never said a damn thing about New Zealand schools.

    “You proved to me that you were when you argued with Jessica”

    Stop digging. The hole you’re in is big enough already. Your twittitude is fully established.

  63. Donald September 1, 2017 at 7:07 pm #

    I already stated that your reputation goes way back that you argue just for the sake of argue. When you get in this mood, you transform out of Dr. Jekyll mode. I stated that he has good comments and I still say that.

    When you argued with hineata and Jessica, you strengthened my claim about Mr. Hyde

  64. James Pollock September 1, 2017 at 7:47 pm #

    “When you argued with hineata and Jessica, you strengthened my claim about Mr. Hyde”

    So, the things you imagined confirmed what you imagine?

    Imagine that!

  65. James Pollock September 1, 2017 at 8:05 pm #

    “your reputation goes way back that you argue just for the sake of argue.”

    You seem to have a habit of attacking people when they call you on your bovine-excrement.

    My reputation or history has nothing to do with whether or not YOU stated “facts” that turn out to be, well, about as real as the American President’s qualifications for the job he currently holds?

    Leave me out of it. What does it say about YOU that YOU were quite willing to argue about something you now admit you knew absolutely nothing about? That when called on it, you continue to throw mud at me? That, despite this reputation that goes way back of arguing for the sake of arguing, you had to MAKE UP arguments I didn’t have to back up your “valued” opinion? If you are quite willing to baldly lie about things, and misrepresent what other people have said or done, why should I or anyone else give two rat farts what your opinion is, or might be?

    Now that you’ve been demonstrated to be full of (excrement), I see no reason to interact with you further. Your ability to recognize facts is at best deeply flawed, and you’re willing to lie to make yourself look good. No thanks. I see no reason to interact with you further. Your opinion, on this or as best as I can tell anything else, has no value.

  66. Donald September 1, 2017 at 8:43 pm #

    You’re starting to wallpaper this page with angry text again. You do that 10 times more often than anyone else. hineata is from New Zealand. She commented about the schools in New Zealand. You argued with her. I commented that Mr. Hyde was coming out again.
    You then stated, “Sure, except for the pesky fact that I never said a damn thing about New Zealand schools.”

    Ok, instead of saying the word ‘reputation’, I’ll instead say ‘pattern of behavior’. You have been doing similar things on here since day one.

  67. James Pollock September 1, 2017 at 11:48 pm #

    Stop digging. The hole you’re in is big enough already. You can’t make it better by lying about me, or about what I said.

  68. test September 2, 2017 at 3:37 am #

    @Donald He asked her whether she is sure and then described his local school arrangement. That is within bounds of normal communication. If you want to call out James Pollock on troll behavior, it is better to do so when he is actually trolling. Here in this discussion, he was not.

    Moreover, people willing to disagree with groupthing are valuable to groups such as this. Consensus otherwise tend to move too much to extreme, as no one is willing to point out inconvenient facts or present opposing opinions. James does that oftentimes here. As annoying as it may feel, it is not trolling and it is good thing.

  69. Jerry Brown September 6, 2017 at 8:14 pm #

    We have a 10 y/o boy on a motorsports sponsorship valued at approx 250,000 a year. He has been racing almost 6 years and competes nationally and internationally. He loves what he does – and is required to maintain A/B honor roll at all times with no behavior issues in school. He likes to run cross country and play basketball – he also spends time on a Pro Scooter. The racing is a year round activity and leaves no time for no other organized sports. High level professional motorsports is a bigger dream than an NFL QB slot. There just are not that many seats open in any given year and it normally takes major name recognition and big money to break the ceiling. We are not “ladder” racers – if he wishes to pursue a career there when the time comes that will be his decision – he can pull the plug anytime and shoot hoops – he knows that. 90% or more or the current crop of professionals in motorsports went this very same route. Perfect behavior, Honor Roll student missing 55 days of public school a year ? Who is to say we are wrong? This young man knows what it means to win (2 time National Champion at 10) and how it feels to loose – something that happens a lot more than winning does. He is a fine young man. I wouldn’t change what we are doing for the world right now.