Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Psychology of Sport - From the games of youth to the big leagues

Playing youth sports has drastically changed in the last twenty years. When I
was young, we played pickup games in my neighborhood. Basketball, wiffleball,
and touch football - without the involvement and supervision of adults - were
our games until dark. Presently, neighborhood, unstructured play has dropped
off. Both parents work. Many of us worry, "Who will take care of our kids? Will
they be abducted if we give them freedom to play?" Organized sports seem to
assuage these concerns.

But, I am seeing increasing numbers of burnout and overuse injuries among our
youth. I am seeing parents under great financial and emotional strain trying to
keep up with an overwhelming sports' schedule that overtakes family dinners and
dominates weekend activities. And for what? It's unlikely any of our kids will
receive athletic college scholarships, despite all of our fantasies (mine

The physical and emotional health benefits from playing sports are being
undermined by extreme training and intense adult pressures. Among our teen
athletes, I am seeing increasing demands on them to perform at exceedingly high
levels. Cheating, steroid use, overtraining and rage are rearing their ugly
heads in the service of achieving that savored "competitive edge."

In this blog, I hope to address these concerning issues related to youth sports
and their connections to the collegiate and professional sport world. I hope to
facilitate a dialogue among parents about what is healthy and edifying for their
children in a fast-paced, win-at-all-cost sporting world.

Richard D. Ginsburg, Ph.D.

Clinical Psychologist and Sport Psychology Consultant


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