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Monday, January 23, 2012

Can't We Just Let Children Have Fun?

Tom Farrey, ESPN correspondent and author of “Game On: The All-American Race to Make Champions of Our Children,” spoke at Bridgewater College last fall on some of the consequences of increased emphasis on competitiveness in children’s sports.

He is concerned about parents becoming too pushy about winning games, and about children becoming too stressed and anxious as a result. He believes today's focus on performance and on playing sports other than just for fun and enjoyment has led to more youth being left out, which in turn results in more obesity and inactivity on their part. And because of all the costs associated with organized sports for children--involving lots of money for uniforms and endless trips to practices and games--children from low-income or single-parent homes are especially likely to be excluded.

Some of the emphasis on early competitive sports, he believes, is the insanely high salaries paid to major league players, and the false hope on the part of some parents that their child will grow up to be a star athlete. But of the more than 7,600 children that have played in the Little League World Series, he says, only 34 have ever made it to the major leagues. Early success in a sport rarely leads to a successful career in that sport, he notes.

Meanwhile, what are our children missing by not having the opportunitues to organize more of their own games and enjoying more of their own creative fun, rather than being pushed into sports activities that are geared more to the aspirations of parents than those of their offspring?
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