I spent some time reflecting on how today’s generation of sports parents are so much different in their approach to their kids in sports than parents were 20-25 years ago. And I think I’ve pinpointed some of the more compelling forces:
1. Today’s pro athletes make mega-fortunes. A generation ago, pro athletes were wealthy, but today’s athletes are more like corporate entities with the millions they rake in. As such, parents today feel that it’s very much worth the time and expense to push their kids ahead in sports since the payoff is potentially worth millions.
2. And besides, even if the kid doesn’t go pro, he/she should at least get a college scholarship for sports. Parents today see that as almost a birth-right for their kids. What they don’t know is that most athletic scholarships are worth only a few thousand dollars, as most college sports programs don’t generate any revenue.
3. Parents today also assume that if their kid is the team MVP or makes All-League in HS, that will give them a major step-up in terms of being recruited for a top college. Again, that’s a myth. The college coaches recruit only those kids who have major, major athletic credentials – and being HS MVP or All-League is no longer viewed as a major accomplishment by the recruiters.
4. Travel teams – which of course didn’t exist 30 years ago – are seen as giving a kid a major advantage over their peers. But here again, there’s no guarantee that your son/daughter will even be good enough to make a travel team (making them into a “has been” at an early age). And even if they make a travel squad, then there’s always the squabbles about playing time and playing the right position. Again, these issues didn’t exist a generation ago. Plus, very few travel team kids will tell you they play for fun – that’s not a top priority.
So, what does all this mean? Hard to say, except that it does seem that when we were kids, playing sports in the backyard, or on the sandlot, was a lot more enjoyable, less pressured, and overall a better experience. The real question, then, is how come we don’t want the same kind of experience in sports for our kids?