Sports Parenting Trends

SPORTS PARENTING TRENDS: Revisiting the Most Pressing Issues in Youth and Amateur Sports

Back in June of this year, I did a Sports Edge show in which I asked a fairly simple question about youth sports. And the response was so overwhelming that I promised myself that I would come back to revisit the topic soon.

And today is that day.

What was that question?

What do you think is the biggest issue confronting youth and amateur sports today?

Now, take a moment and think about the headlines that have confronted you as a sports parent or as a coach in the year 2017.

For example, is it concerns about your child suffering concussions in contact sports, like football, soccer, ice hockey, and lacrosse?

Or is it not knowing what’s the right age to have your child specialize in one sport?

What about travel teams – that is, do you feel it’s important to have your kid compete on a travel team…and if so, starting at what age?

Are you concerned about certain travel sports in which the travel program says that your youngster will ultimately have to choose between playing for their local HS varsity team or their travel team?

In fact, what about the overall impact of travel teams – do you feel that they are gradually eroding or supplanting traditional HS varsity sports? Many point to the European model in which schools do not offer any sports at all; that is, if your son or daughter wants to play sports, they play for an outside, or club, team.

And what about the rising cost and expense of travel programs? Lots of recent articles point out that travel teams have become the domain of only the wealthy in this country.

Or maybe you’re concerned with the rising reality of so many kids becoming overweight and obese. Experts point to the staggering popularity of video games, or e-games as they are known. Kids love them and can’t seem to get enough of them. Obviously, having kids sit in front of a video screen doesn’t do much for their physical conditioning.

What about the rise in home schooling athletes? I was just reading the other day where a family in Rockland County (NY) home schooled their teenage tennis player. During her junior and senior year of HS, she travelled all over the country,  competing in tournaments and ultimately earned a full scholarship to Rutgers.

Is that kind of approach going to become more and more the norm – especially for those sports which are for the individual as opposed to a team?


Or that these days, student-athletes get all sorts of second and third chances when they do something stupid. That is, there’s less and less of a hard focus about kids and their sense of accountability.For example, when do we expect kids to become more aware of social media concerns?


The calls this AM on WFAN were both plentiful and meaningful. One caller said that with the continuous rising cost of college these days, sports parents are more focused than ever on having their athlete garner an athletic scholarship. Even though it was pointed out that very few colleges offer full rides for sports other than football and basketball, parents still focus on having their child try to reach that goal.

Another caller did think that more and more school districts will gradually phase out sports, simply because the better athletes in the HS are playing for an outside travel team, and the rising costs of running a traditional varsity sports program won’t be worth it.

Another fan of the show pointed out that young athletes these days face a lot more pressure than athletes did in the past. Kids as young as 6 or 7 are feeling compelled to make a travel team, and that kind of pressure tends to drive kids away from sports. Maybe that explains that kids today feel a sense of obligation to try out, rather than develop a true sense of passion or joy for playing the sport.

I ran out of time this AM to ask this ultimate question: what kind of sports parents will our kids become when they become parents and we’re grandparents?

Will they want their kids to specialize early in a sport? Will they still want their kids to play on travel teams? Or will we experience a kind of backlash from all of this; that is, that our kids will let their children (our grandchildren) pretty much go out and play sports on their own?

Only time will tell.

  • Thomas Nerney Sr.

    It’s old but it’s true prepare the child for the path not the path for the child. We are a charted Babe Ruth/ Cal Ripken league which starts all star play at age 8 which I think is ridiculous I also feel that the day is not far off when the only way a child can play is if his parents can afford it