At the gym today a mom was talking about the drama on her daughter’s cheerleader team. I guess one girl was refusing to do a back-flip and the coach balled her out in front of everyone and threatened to cut her from the team. Without knowing any of the details or back story, I couldn’t help thinking that’s a lot of pressure to put on an eleven-year-old.
I never did sports as a kid beyond tap and ballet class, but it was pretty low key; everyone got to perform and wear a sparkly costume and the only time the teacher yelled was to say we were talking too loud during breaks. Surely the girls from my dance class would have been at the bottom of Abby’s Pyramid were we cast on Dance Moms.
My friend has a daughter who won so many competitions in gymnastics there was a great deal of pressure for her to train for the Olympics. She was really torn because she wanted her child to excel and go for the gold, but at the cost of her childhood? Olympic tryouts meant training long hours before school, after school, every weekend, summer and vacations too. What if she got injured? How would she handle the inevitable bad day when she lost or didn’t do as well as she hoped?
Boys have been dealing with sports pressure since the dawn of time it seems. I remember going to my big brother’s baseball games and thinking that the coaches and fathers seemed like lunatics, standing up and shouting at little four-year-olds like it was the World Series instead of the pre-k league.
Here in Texas football is king and I know several people who have gone with the “redshirting kindergarten” trend, which means they hold their sons back a year from starting school so they will be bigger and stronger for the football team. This gives them an edge over the competition (those other menacing five-year-olds) thereby getting their sons scholarships and attention from the coaches of the elite teams.
I thought kindergarten was for, you know, learning. I guess they are learning it is more important to win than to read?
My daughter is five. I want her to play sports for all the benefits they can offer (physical activity, learning teamwork and self discipline, building confidence) minus all the crazy stuff (putting the sport ahead of family time, spending thousands of dollars on private lessons to beat out the competition, coaches publicly humiliating kids as a motivation technique.) I don’t believe every kid deserves a trophy just for showing up, but I don’t believe they should desire therapy in the off season either. Hopefully, I’ll find the right team for her.
What do you think about youth sports and pressure?
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