Monday, April 07, 2008

Will Playing Sports Get Our Kids Into College?
(Also posted on Psychology Today's website).

What if playing sports had absolutely no influence on college acceptance? What
if playing for THE elite travel team meant only that our children were playing
more games at a higher level with no free time for weekend relaxation? Would
playing youth sports hold the same importance it does in present day culture?

I think not. Families across the nation would be relieved. They could have their
weekends back to go to church or synagogue, have a barbeque in the neighborhood,
spend time together as a family, save money on gas, and limit the number of
hours in the minivan. Everyone would sleep more. Parents might actually have
time to do something for themselves. Downtime might return as a realistic

The more I speak on this topic to parent groups and schools, the more I come to
understand that the number one driving force behind the youth sport frenzy is
the hope that athletics will help our children get a scholarship or at least
give them a competitive advantage over another child with equal or better
academic standing.

The chances our children will play college sports are slim. Less than 5% in most
cases as estimated by the NCAA and the National Alliance of Youth Sports. Do the
math. Most of our children aren't going to play college sports. It's unlikely
they will get a "leg up" in the college application process through sport
activities. And scholarships are even more remote. As Bill Pennington wrote in
the New York Times a few weeks back, full scholarships are rarely given. In
fact, most scholarships fail to match the years of annual youth sport bills that
include membership fees and extensive travel bills. Is it really worth our time,
energy and dollars to invest in such an unlikely outcome?

Early sport training, early sport specialization, and travel teams do not
guarantee success. In fact, there is no solid research evidence that early
specialization helps performance. But there is plenty of evidence about the risk
of burnout, over-use injury and stress from early specialization and
over-training. Ask any pediatrician or sports medicine doctor, and they will
tell you that their practices are inundated with child over-use-in-sport

So why play sports? Why are we enrolling our kids in Little League baseball or
encouraging them to try out for the high school team? There are countless
reasons why children should play sports. Studies reveal that the benefits range
from increased cardiovascular health and reduced risk of obesity to improved
social skills and overall mental health, just to name a few. Sports are an
opportunity to cultivate character in our young people so that they may be
versatile adults capable of independent thought and leadership. Physical
activity helps them become more comfortable and confident in their own bodies.

When it comes down to it, I am going to take a leap that these are the reasons
most parents want their children engaged in sports. The powerful current of our
win-at-all-cost culture plays off of our fears. We worry that our children will
miss out and fail to reach their full potential if we don't push them hard

If this were the stock market, would we continue to devote hard-earned dollars
to a long-shot of athletic scholarship? And it is not only our pockets that are
at risk. Some children pushed to the extremes in sports either become injured,
burned out, or even worse, turned off from sports entirely. The safest
investment is in our children's overall health which entails a balance in their
sport, and academic and artistic activities. There is nothing wrong with
encouraging excellence in athletics, but sports are more likely a vehicle to
build life skills applicable to life after college as opposed to a ticket to

The information transmitted in this electronic communication is intended only
for the person or entity to whom it is addressed and may contain confidential
and/or privileged material. Any review, retransmission, dissemination or other
use of or taking of any action in reliance upon this information by persons or
entities other than the intended recipient is prohibited. If you received this
information in error, please contact the Compliance HelpLine at 800-856-1983 and
properly dispose of this information.


Post a Comment

<< Home