The Downfall of Youth Sports

“We all need to think more deeply about the insanity of our youth sports culture, with its focus on early specialization in one sport, and, especially its seasons without end.”

-Michael Sokolove, author of Warrior Girls

“Do you know the girl’s youth traveling basketball coordinator?” asked the Director of Youth Recreation & Middle School Sports in our city. “No, why?” I replied.

“I could have sworn that you two have talked because he says the exact things you have talked to me about today regarding youth sports.”

“Really? Well, I’m glad I’m not the only one. Something has to change!”

Several years ago my son and daughter stepped foot on their own soccer fields for the  first time. My daughter was four-years-old and my son was six. Both of them were excited to play on their own team as they had been attending my husband’s games since they were born. Watching his games, my son and daughter looked forward to hearing the long whistles that indicated half-time and the end of the game. Their little feet would scurry for a practice ball and run out on the field to take advantage of the little amount of time they had to shoot on the big nets.

Three years have gone by and both of my children are still playing soccer. My husband and I have been coaching and assist coaching our kids’ teams for the past six seasons, and we have been blown away by the many changes in today’s youth sports culture. Today’s youth soccer is not the same as when we were young. The changes we see today are not helping to instill a love for the game in our young athletes, and I’m hoping to bring awareness to some of the largest issues.

Join me in a three part series where we explore:

  • Part 1 – the effects of participating in an adult-centered (direct coaching that includes many drills and very little time for players to practice in game-like situations) vs. a player-centered training model (players spend very little time participating in drills, and spend the majority of their training time in game-like situations that promote player creativity and socialization between teammates). Publish on 12/17/2017
  • Part 2 – the effects of not keeping score. Publish on 12/24/17
  • Part 3 – the effects of sport specialization at young ages, and the astronomical price increases to play sports. Publish on 12/31/17



Author’s background: Erin is certified in K-12 physical education and adapted physical education. She is also a long-time soccer player and youth soccer coach who loves to share her love of the game with young athletes.




6 Replies to “The Downfall of Youth Sports”

  1. Erin, This sounds like a fascinating series. I’m looking forward to reading each post. I’m sure it’ll be packed with interesting information. Your love of sports, the outdoors, and raising self-reliant, good and kind people, will all, I know, contribute meaningfully to this important conversation. Any thoughts on when we can look for the posts?

    1. Great question, Angel! I was thinking about adding dates as I was trying to fall asleep last night. I need to do this, and will update my post now. Also, thank you for your kind words! I look forward to discussing this topic others.

  2. 👍 good topic can’t wait to

    1. Thank you! 🙂 Can’t wait to discuss the issues with others.

  3. I had no idea you were a soccer (ahem, it’ll always be football to me) coach! I am looking forward to reading your thoughts.

    I found the difference in sports massive in Japan compared to the UK.

    When I was a child, I tried a little of everything (netball, field hockey, rounders, trampolining, dance and swimming) My sports teams mostly played for fun, and we rarely practiced for more than an hour a week. We could definitely have specialized a little more!

    In Japan, kids would practice just one sport, but they would be sooo serious and practice for a few hours every day. They were waaay better at whichever sport they chose, but it meant most of them only ever liked one sport. I always thought that was a bit of a shame.

    1. Josy, I completely respect the name football too! 🙂 Our household breaths soccer (football) – playing, coaching, and watching our favorite team – Chelsea.

      As far as sport specialization – I think this is the way the world is trending. You are correct, some countries have practiced this for a very long time already. The U.S. is just starting to jump on the bandwagon. There are so many negative impacts of this movement, and the youth are suffering for it.

      I look forward to discussing these issues with anyone who wants to discuss them. I’m sure there will be strong feelings for and against my thoughts. Only time will tell! Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment, Josy!

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