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Reforming Youth Sports: One Mom's Wish List

Another Mother's Day may have come and gone, but not my wish list for all the sports moms out there in MomsTeam Nation stays the same.   Here are my top eight:

  1. I wish that ... instead of defining competition solely in terms of winning and losing, youth sports could also reflect a mother's belief that, while competition is healthy and necessary, a successful competition is one where all players do their best and respect their teammates, opponents, and the rules. Mom 
	coaching girls in T-ball
  2. I wish that ... when a mother signed her child up to play sports, she knew that she would be given a chance to continue playing right through high school, regardless of ability, not be excluded by a youth sports system too often designed to cater to the elite few.
  3. I wish that ... youth sports were a place that provided the kind of nurturing, caring, and inclusive environment mothers know intuitively their children need to grow into confident, competent, empathetic, and emotionally and psychologically healthy adults, instead of a place where physical, emotional and even sexual abuse of children is too often viewed as the price children have to pay in order to play.
  4. I wish that ... mothers could feel safe in challenging the status quo by complaining about safety issues, an abusive coach, an unfair team selection process, the lack of women coaches, or the unhealthy overemphasis on competition, aggressiveness and winning instead of being afraid that, if they speak up, their children will be ostracized.
  5. I wish that ... more mothers felt empowered to just say no, to reject the all too common belief that more (more teams, more practices, more intense and competitive games) and earlier specialization (travel teams at age seven!) are better, and instead to trust their intuition that, when it comes to youth sports, less is more.
  6. I wish that ... so many mothers didn't get sucked into the crazy vortex of competitive youth sports, where survival virtually requires that they become overly focused on and invested in their children's athletic success, and were able to find a healthy balance between sports and family life.
  7. I wish that ... youth sports organizations did more to reduce the risk of catastrophic injury or death so that fewer mothers have to spend Mother's Day remembering a child who died because proper safety precautions such as anchoring soccer goal posts, strictly adhering to conservative concussion return-to-play guidelines, and an automatic external defibrillator at every game and practice, were not taken.
  8. I wish that ... instead of being a "No-Mom's Land" in which a mother's job is to chauffeur the kids to and from practices, support their kids from the bleachers, and run concession stands, youth sports could be a place where as many mothers as fathers are coaches, administrators, and members of boards of directors of youth sports organizations.


Revised May 12, 2010

Brooke de Lench is the founder of MomsTeam, and author of HOME  TEAM ADVANTAGE: The Critical Role of Mothers in Youth Sports (Harper Collins ).