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Whether you’re a rights holder or a parent, you probably live and breathe youth sports nearly 24/7. And the discussion always is there: Should kids play more than one sport, or should young athletes concentrate on the sport in which they excel?
The Wichita Eagle recently published an interesting look at youth sports and participation. First, the bottom line: According to the Sports Facility Advisory, there were 53 million youngsters (and their parents) traveling to youth sporting events in this country last year, with an economic impact of $7 billion.
That’s the economic total, now let’s look at the ‘why’ we have our kids participate. The article quotes Marilyn Price-Mitchell, a Seattle-based psychologist identified as a positive youth development expert. “Sports teach kids about tactics and strategy,” she said. “It teaches them about working with a team, how to collaborate with other kids.”
So we know that sports teaches our kids great life lessons. But let’s face it, we often hope that their favorite sports will help them earn a college scholarship. Here’s a sobering fact: The NCAA says $2.7 billion in athletic scholarships that Division I and II schools give out, go to more than 150,000 students each year. Sounds like a lot, until you realize that total is just two percent of high school athletes.
And the article points out that specializing in one sport doesn’t guarantee a college signing. “Many think a college scholarship in athletics is a given,” Newman University women’s basketball coach Darin Spence said. “Just because you pay some club coach money, that doesn’t mean your child will earn a scholarship.”
Programs often can offer only partial scholarships as well. Baseball, for example, usually reserves full rides to pitchers. NCAA Division I baseball programs give out 11.7 scholarships per team, so most players receive partial scholarships.
Bottom line is, we know that youth sports are a great, healthy activity for kids. For event holders and site managers, we also know that youth sports are a growing business. But none of us should lose sight of the reasons why we’re involved in youth sports: For the kids. Overwhelmingly, coaches responding to The Eagle’s survey said youth sports need to be about learning and loving the game.
“Parents must be patient,” Joe Auer, boys basketball and golf coach at Heights High, said. “I see a lot of kids get burned out on sports because by 10, 11, they’re told the reason they’re playing is to get to the next level. You can get better without taking the fun out of it.”