STOP Bullying Our Youth Athletes

Posted: March 12, 2013 in Youth sports
Tags: , , , ,

The Boy (my fifteen-year-old) discovered lacrosse at a very late age. He was eleven. He was able to play two years in the local youth league.

He’s a freshman in high school now. He’s already played football and has wrestled at this level. He’s working out with some friends and getting ready for lacrosse tryouts.

I have no idea if he’ll get a spot on the team. I just like the fact that he’s got a goal in mind and is going to fight hard to achieve it.

I like the fact that every coach he’s had in high school so far has encouraged his players to play other high school sports.

The CIAC, which governs middle school and high school sports in Connecticut, includes the following philosophy in its handbook:

SPECIALIZATION OF SPORTS AT AN EARLY AGE

Specialization in one sport during the middle level and high school years, to the exclusion of most others, and too often at the expense of other equally valuable and wholesome activities, is at variance with the basic philosophical premise of American education, which seeks to produce well-rounded individuals with interests and abilities in many areas. Students should be discouraged from devoting all their energies and time to a single sport, but rather should be encouraged to allow themselves the experience of more than one sport. Boards of education should advocate and enact policies which encourage students to seek broadly based athletic experiences as well as broadly based academic programs. The school athletics program as well as community based athletic programs must be kept in perspective as providing experiences of many kinds for our youth.

The objective of the greatest possible personal growth of the student is best served by a varied program of activities, academic and athletic, which keeps proper perspective on the total development of the youngster from adolescence to adulthood, and which allows the student to do and be other things as well. School boards, school administrators, athletic directors, coaches, community recreation personnel and the parents of the student-athlete all have the responsibility of insuring that the student is afforded opportunities in several areas.

The formative years should be a time of growing in mind and body, a time of expanding horizons and outlook, not of specialization and narrowing of interests.

Common sense, right? What type of coach would think he or she had the right to preach anything other than those exact words?

Folks, they are out there. They are at every level of youth sports and planted in almost every town in this state. And it disgusts me. It should disgust you as well.

This is one of thousands of articles on the subject that you can access with a simple search.

So, why am I whining about this today? I just finished telling you how The Boy has been encouraged to play a different sport every season. I just quoted the CIAC handbook. I think I noticed most of your heads nodding in agreement when I suggested it was a common sense approach.

Well, I’m pushing the keys ten times harder than normal today because I just had a discussion with a high school athlete whose coach is pounding him with requests that completely ignore the advice that is clearly printed out for every single middle and high school coach to see.

And one would assume that such advice is clearly printed for all to see because it is expected that each coach will show good judgment by following it.

So, what can be done? It’s almost impossible for the CIAC to know what each and every coach is saying to each and every athlete.

That leaves it up to you – you, the parent of that child. If your son or daughter mentions over a bowl of Wheaties that Coach Jones is upset that he or she wants to play another sport, you have an obligation to that child to have a conversation with that coach – or with your school’s Athletic Director, or with your town’s Superintendant of schools.

If it’s happening at the pre-high school level, you should immediately contact the league president or your town’s recreation department. It is a despicable act of selfishness and poor judgment for ANY coach or league to dictate or insinuate the sports that your child should be playing outside of that sport’s normal season.

Hear me now: If your child wants to play one sport exclusively and you have no issues with it, that’s your decision. But it should never be because you or your child are being pushed or coerced by a coach.

That kid I was talking about? He’s good at his sport. He has just decided that he’s got too many more years of high school left to feel like he is being bullied into playing or training for that one sport year round. He told his coach he was going to do what he wanted to do.

I hope he follows through. It would be a shame if he missed out on being able to enjoy another sport. Of course he is fifteen-years-old already. What is it with kids these days? They just can’t seem to make up their minds.

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