American athletics has become so all consuming that many parents have lost sight of the reality of youth sports. What started a hundred years ago in the New York public school system has now morphed into big business, which is feeding unrealistic expectations for parents and kids alike.
Here are a couple of examples, just from today:
I have similar conversations with people almost daily, and it really is symptomatic of much more deeply rooted issues in the adult community and media.
"Living the Dream" is a frequent phrase used in the hockey community. I have heard parents of kids with decidedly average or below talent who say they would never consider throwing cold water on their child's pro aspirations; that they will do anything and spend anything to help little junior go pro.
An entire industry has sprung up to help fulfill every wish and desire of parents who think that their child is the next "Great Gretzky" or whomever their current favorite player might be today. They are completely oblivious to the cold hard facts simply do not support nor validate any of these behaviors.
Unfortunately, this is not a youth hockey-only phenomenon; it is the same across all youth, high school and college athletics in this country. According to the college statistics services undergraduate degrees in "Park, Leisure, Recreation, and Fitness Studies" are the fastest growing areas of study, with many related to sports marketing, management, training, and coaching.
I have nothing against these fields, but with a shortage of electrical/mechanical/engineers, doctors, and scientists, maybe we need to encourage our kids to prepare for the game of life instead of the game of their life.
We have gone seriously off the tracks in our country when we value an athlete more than a teacher or scientist or mathematician. If families spent as much time, effort and money educating their children as they do on sports we would not be wringing our hands about falling behind other countries in the critical skills and technology areas.
Playing sport is good for kids, but all things in moderation. So many of the issues we are discussing on this site and others are a direct result of the sports-crazed society we live in. Somehow we need to change the dialogue before things get even worse.