Youth Athletes Face Greater Stress and Pressure
Sports are supposed to be a way for kids to have fun while growing up and learning some valuable life lessons, but are they becoming their greatest source of stress?
Because of the growing demands and cutthroat competition, kids are being expect to devote more time and attention to sports, which are hardly casual these days.
"The demands on kid's time and effort is really putting things out of balance," said Dr. Steven Tobias, a child psychologist and director of the Center for Child and Family Development in Morristown.
This often means starting stringent training earlier, working with private coaches, playing for multiple teams, or more specialization. That is a growing trend when parents or coaches believe a kid has a chance to thrive and get, at least, a scholarship in one particular sport. More and more of those kids are focusing on just that one sport, year-round.
Tobias believes we are seeing the 'professionalism' of sports manifest itself at basically the elementary school level now.
"We're seeing kids at younger and younger ages being pressured and pushed beyond what's really healthy for them," he explained.
In addition to the stress and pressure, Tobias feels that many valuable lessons are getting lost in the cutthroat, competitive world of youth sports, such as sportsmanship, teamwork, and learning how to deal and cope with frustrations and letdowns.
"We're putting these pressures on these kids at younger and younger ages," he said.
Another growing conflict for many young athletes is whether or not to play hurt. Kids often do not want to let their team down by coming out of a game because of injury. Tobias said while we want to see our children show courage and strength, there has to be a balance between dedication and their safety.
"When do you need to make a sacrifice for the team and when is really that sacrifice coming at too much of a personal cost," he asked.
He believes the onus is on parents to guide kids on how to find the line between the demands of sports, everyday life, growing up, and their safety.
"Kids don't inherently know what's good for them," he said. "Really, it's the adult's responsibility to know how much a kid a should be pushed."
Tobias believes not enough parents set the tone these days for kids to follow their lead. That trend is often, and wrongfully, reverse.
The effects of this stress can bleed into other facets of life and lead to many kids getting turned off by sports, and losing their genuine joy.