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Friday, March 14, 2008 article on “Youth sports drawing more than ever” by Laura Hilgers

In my last blog post The “FUN” in Sports Participation, I make reference to the large number of youngsters involved in sports using figures reported by the National Council of Youth Sports (NCYS) in their 2000 census. I state in the blog that these numbers, 32 million, are not likely to decrease in the future.

I recently came across an article in “Kids Sports” on by Laura Hilgers that currently estimates this number of competitive youth sports participants to be somewhere around 41 million. On average, that is about a 1+ million per year increase over the last 8 years, very substantial to say the least. That is a lot of kids, and with that huge number of young participants comes the ability to either positively or negatively impact them through the athletic experiences they have. It is not something we, as a sports involved society, should take lightly.

There are other highlights in the article that bring into better focus several of the positive aspects of competitive sports in addition to emphasizing the loss of perspective I have discussed in previous blogs. Ms. Hilgers, using Dr. Dan Gould’s (director of the Institute for the Study of Youth Sport at Michigan State University) expertise, also details the large amount of time it actually takes for any one athlete to master their sport and the pressure parents are putting on their kids to specialize and cram all this training in, in their “first two years.” The first two parts of this statement by Dr. Gould, the time it takes for mastery and specialization, are points I have heard many others allude to in the past.

At this point, I will not try to identify whether the hours spent in becoming an “expert” or specializing in any one sport are a good or bad thing, other than to state that both are very dependant on the situation and individual athlete. There are just too many important questions to be asked and answered (i.e. at what age, for what purpose, what is there to gain, what is there to lose, etc.) before any conclusion can be made. As a matter of fact, I don’t think anyone can or should dictate a global response to these two debatable ideas. These two ideas of hours spent for mastery and specialization, however, may be something I address in a future blog.

Ms. Hilgers’ article identifies several significant issues, on both sides of the coin, and presents information that helps broaden the perspective of understanding for anyone involved with kids and sports. It is another good read I would recommend.

By Laura Hilgers
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