Let kids enjoy the game

Via the Youth Sports Parents Blog comes the following:

Gretzky on youth hockey
from Youth Sports Parents by Mark Hyman

This is a terrific piece from last Friday’s Toronto Globe and Mail in which Wayne Gretzky speaks out about the overheated state of youth hockey. Basically, he advises parents to back off. Let kids enjoy the game. Encourage them to experiment with several sports. Gretzky says this is the approach he has taken with his five kids. And it was the way he grew up in sports.

“I know, for myself, when the hockey season was over, I couldn’t wait to play baseball. I had no interest in playing ice hockey until September,” he tells the Globe and Mail. We need to hear this message from more pro athletes.

Thanks to Doug Abrams for tipping us to this article

I’ve heard this so often from so many people, well connected, talented athletes and coaches, it just boggles my brain how often this simple advice isn’t followed. I was in Minneapolis last fall and had an opportunity to have lunch with Doug Woog, he’s legend in Minnesota and works for Learfield.  We spent a good bit of lunch talking about youth sports and the impact that ultra competitive sports has on kids, both physically and mentally.

For many families, it starts early, 8, 9 10 years old.  The dreams of college scholarships and a shot at the big leagues quickly replaces all rational thought.  Kids who should be outside playing with their friends are instead either sent to the gym or to the trainer.  And parents spend thousands, tens of thousands of dollars training and carting the family all over the country.

To date, I have yet to see any data that shows all this investment at such a young age actually translates into any measurable results.  To the contrary, there’s quite a bit of data that suggests many kids burn out along the way, typically by the age of 13. And from Coach Woog’s perspective, this behavior often damages a child’s “sense of team” and “place”.

Parents, do yourself a favor.  Encourage your young athlete, nurture their desire, but maintain perspective.  And above all make sure they’re having fun. Remember, it’s supposed to be fun, not a job!

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