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Is There Too Much Pressure On Young Athletes?

Parents are very proud and supportive of their children.  They encourage their children to be the best that they can be no matter what.  Youth sports is a perfect example of that.  Many parents go to their children’s sporting events such as Little League games and can be very vocal.  Some parents push their children so much where they will yell at their child and the child becomes embarrassed in front of their friends.  Some parents bring their children to tears.  I have witnessed all of these things, but luckily for me my parents never treated me this way.  They wanted me to give it my all, show good sportsmanship, but most of all have fun.

What ever happened to Little League baseball and other youth sports organizations being fun?  Most of the athletes are playing to have fun and be with their friends.  The parents put too much pressure on their kids and make it more about themselves and their own egos as opposed to seeing their kids have a great time with their friends and teammates.  Many parents act like their kid is the next Derek Jeter.  It is almost impossible to become a professional athlete and in particular, a Major League Baseball player.  Let the kids be what they are and that is kids.  Let them enjoy their youth and be happy that they are involved in an activity such as Little League Baseball.  Most of these parents thought their children where “all that and a bag of chips.”   These same children grow into teenagers and end up giving up the sport by the time they get to high school.  It isn’t just parents who put pressure on young athletes.  It is outside influences like the media as well.

LeBron James is arguably the best NBA player in today’s day and age.  LeBron was highly coveted and labeled a phenom at a very young age.  LeBron was easily the most talked about and hyped up high school basketball player of all time.  He was being recruited by colleges at a young age.  He was on the cover of Sports Illustrated magazine as a high school junior.  The media hype around this young kid from Akron, Ohio was amazing!  St. Vincent-St Mary’s High School basketball games had to be moved to larger arenas just to accommodate the media circus and the large quantity of fans who wanted to see this young phenom.  The media added so much pressure to this high school kid, but he handled it very well.  He was drafted number one overall in the 2003 NBA Draft straight out of high school by his hometown Cleveland Cavaliers.  The hype continued to surround LeBron as a rookie and still does to this day.  He has hit the hype head on and overcame the odds.  This same kid from Akron, Ohio had enough pressure without a father in his life.  He was poor and his family moved quite often.  He made the best out of a tough situation, but most people wouldn’t be able to do so.  The pressure has continued to be added, but this time it is for his son.  His son is a very good ballplayer.  This sick world we live in has coaches from Division I colleges already scouting and trying to recruit LeBron’s son.  This is ridiculous! The kid has enough pressure living in the shadow of his father, now he has to worry about living up to his father’s hype!  Let him be a kid and when he gets to high school, then start the recruiting process.  The recruiting process could very well be tougher than it was for his father.  His father had the option to go right to the NBA from high school, but the rules no longer allow that to occur.

The bottom line is that parents should ease up on their children and let them have fun playing sports with their friends and teammates.  Most kids stop playing sports competitively by the time that they get to high school.  My advice to parents would be to stop living your own dream through your children.  Children are innocent and just want to have fun.  Don’t put that type of pressure on your children.  As much as I love sports and its competitive nature, when I have children, I would never allow myself to put so much pressure on my children that they aren’t having fun.  I would tell them to play hard, play fair, show good sportsmanship, and most importantly have fun.  Your youth is the time of your life where there are no worries.  Parents shouldn’t take that away from their children!


Author: Nick Eberhardt

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