The decline of youth sports
By JAY VALLES
Some of it begins at the Peewee sports level. Dads, and yes, even Moms, yelling, “get down there and hit somebody”. It seems coaches, who are just regular parents and mostly just trying to help out in the community, unfortunately only help to promote the perversion. The problem could be they lack the proper skills to teach our youth the fundamentals of the game and how to simply have fun; How to properly tackle without getting hurt and without hurting opposing players. Even more, sportsmanship seems to get thrown out with the baby and the bathwater.
Now these youth reach the 7th and 8th grades and I begin to hope that maybe now someone will begin to teach them the fundamentals of the game, but it doesn’t seem to materialize. What you see is more of the same, but it’s even worse now because now your child weighs 100-150 lbs. Now those head-to-head blows begin to cause concussions. A concussion in 7th or 8th grade can be nothing less than a perversion of the game. Why are these kids going after each other as if they were professionals getting paid to do so? Are we as parents just as much to blame? Regardless, we have to step up and take responsibility for the health and safety of our own children.
In the 8th grade home football game on 10/18/12 at Buck Stadium, a parent of a player on the visiting team had to quieted by the ref for yelling and applauding the injury of one the home team players. In the same game, a player of the opposing team was ejected from the game over a cheap shot. On that very play, my son was being brought down by a head-to-head hit, when another player hit him in the head from behind. As he was lying there, a third player (the ejected one) punched him in the head. This hit combination caused my son a serious concussion. We didn’t know it at the time, but after the game, we were called down onto the field to come see my son. He was very dizzy. He told me his head was hurting and spinning. He could barely stand on his own, his pupils were dilated and he couldn’t see clearly. He had to be driven off the field and helped to dress. We then took him to the emergency room where after a CAT scan the doctor confirmed a concussion.
Unfortunately, coaches, even our own, seem to be promoting that type of hitting, and really, the 7th and 8th grade coaches are only doing what the high school athletic director, their boss, has outlined for them. It appears fundamentals go out the window over a program that instead tries to prepare them for the high school program. But in my opinion, our 7th and 8th grade football teams have no business running shotgun offenses exclusively. Quarterbacks in these grades should not be trying to learn designed plays that have them throwing on the run.
My youngest 10-year-old son has played peewee football for several years, but this year he had second thoughts and decided not to play. His reason, he was tired of getting hit and didn’t often get a chance to play positions he wanted. Yes, dedication and hard work are part of any sports program, but at this level, that should never be placed above simply having fun. And yes, not everyone can be a quarterback or running back, but again, at this level, everyone should get a chance to try as often as possible. A peewee football coach’s program should never be solely and firstly about winning.
It’s not only in football, but our local Little League baseball program is no different. Even by their own admission, our Little League directors feel the program should be about “prepping” the players for upper level programs. Instead of teaching the fundamentals of the game, or a love for the game, they drain all the fun out of the game. What happens when you apply this “prepping” attitude? You begin to coach and appease the better players and you begin to disregard less skilled players. Even to the point of changing the rules outlined by the Little League handbook. Kids, as young as 9 years old, are getting rotator cuff injuries that basically ruin their arms for life (yes, here in Alpine). One year, my son took a pitch to the head that resulted in a concussion. In other places, kids have even lost their lives in a Little League game. There can be no worse perversion of the game and of the ideals Little League is supposed to stand for. Is it more important for a pitcher to learn to throw as hard and fast as possible, or should they be coached to learn control and accuracy?
Even Little Dribblers basketball is not immune. Because of the way the program is operated, there are teams that go an entire season without winning a single game, or teams that lose games 50 to 0 or 60 to 4. What’s more, you get parents totally disgusted and even fighting with each other in the stands. It becomes totally disheartening. How is all this teaching fundamentals or a love for the game? I grew up playing all these sports and I couldn’t wait to see and support my children playing these sports. Now I find myself in a predicament I never could have imagined. Should I ask my kids to reconsider signing up for these sports?
Only three percent of high school basketball players make the transition to the NCAA. An even less .03% (that’s 3/100ths of 1 percent) of high school basketball players make it to the NBA. There are approximately 135,000 high school seniors playing baseball, but only about 8200 NCAA freshman positions available. Only .45% (less than ½ of 1 percent) of high school baseball players make it to the Major Leagues. About 3% of high school football players will play at the colligate level, and, a mere .08% of high school football players make it to the NFL. In a small town school like Alpine, you can expect the percentages to be even lower.
Don’t we just want our children to have a better education and better opportunities than we had? Today, our children have the highest chance for a higher education than ever before. Studies vary and place numbers between 65-80% of high school seniors that go on to attend college. In 2011, the Department of Labor Statistics placed the number at 68.3 percent. Other studies show that almost 100% of seniors that prepare for a higher education go on to so.
Jay Valles is an editor and writer from Alpine and publishes the online news and commentary blog La Voz at www.2theportal.com.
Story filed under: West Texas Talk