Monday, June 20, 2016

Youth Sports At What Cost


"She was 15 years old. Her crime? Her coach thought she didn’t play very well in the first half. Her punishment? Total humiliation." - Mike Giuliano

How often have you sat in stands of a local youth sports game and heard parents disparaging the umpires, the players or coaches. I am sure each of us have possibly yelled something in defense of our own team or child.

Many times it can become very offensive in language or just in the verbal abuse the parent is shouting. We certainly are either embarrassed after the fact by our words or even for the person shouting so loudly.

Most people would not stand idly by and may say something. In the world of sports at many levels, umpires or referees have the authority to remove that person from the facility because of the abusive language.

So much of this goes on that law enforcement is hired to attend and be a presence during these sporting events from young children playing soccer, middle and high school well into the college and professional ranks.

Why then do we allow coaches to abuse our children?

In a recent article, Mike Giuliano writes about this phenomenon in which we allow many (not all) coaches verbally and sometimes physically abuse our kids.

Mike is a teacher and girls soccer coach at Greater Atlanta Christian in the Atlanta area. He and his family moved to Atlanta so that his wife Barbara could take a job fighting domestic minor sex trafficking.

Previously Mike was the head soccer coach at Wheaton College (men), San Diego State University (women) and Westmont College (women). His teams have won four national collegiate championships and he has a Ph.D. in communication studies from Northwestern University.

The stories he tells of the mental, verbal and sometimes physical go well beyond what would be accepted of teachers in the classroom, or of parents in the stadium stands. But we allow coaches to do so.

Why? All in search of that elusive sports scholarship.

The reason is a very simplistic one and does not encompass all of the various reasons. But Mike explains, "...there is so much fear of the price of college, that any coach who may increase our children’s chances of securing an athletic scholarship is treated with reverence, regardless of his or her demeanor."

And the price our children pay long term is more devastating. As adults these kids have a higher percentage of serious self-esteem issues, more apt to wed abusive spouses or abuse their own spouses.

What we are teaching our kids by allowing these types of coaches into their lives is that verbal abuse unleashed for a “good cause” is always justified as explained by Giuliano.

Is this how we should be raising our children?

There will be those who justify the abuse and respond by saying we are coddling our children. I have even heard a parent tell his son after losing a club wrestling match that he needs to "grow a pair" in a not so friendly manner.

Are we over-protecting our kids? No, I am not talking about that kind of treatment. This is the real thing and we need to open our eyes to the impact it has on our kids and what it does to society long term.

If not for society, then for your own child. Give them an opportunity to learn and love sports. So much can be learned about life, competition and leadership with the right kind of experience.

Stand up and protect your kids when a coach or anyone is being abusive. There will be more games played with both wins and defeats occurring. Just don't let either come at the cost of your child's long term well-being.

Stay inspired my friends.

(Thanks Mike Giuliano for the great article as guidance for this article)

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