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are travel and elite sports ruining our kids? EDIT** in red
by Anonymous
September 4, 2013 at 9:28 PM

Do your kids play travel or elite sports? Do they play a year round sport before the age of 15?

I hear parents all the time commenting about their 9 or 10 year old playing these special forms of sports. Its often said to separate their child from those "other" kids who play (gasp) rec sports.

It makes me wonder about the pedistal some parents have put their kids on. These kids are generally the best, or in the top 5 of their limited group of classmates and fellow team mates. Typically these kids are on the older sude and bigger side of their age group. So lets face it, they shoul be better than the younger smaller kids. So what happens to these kids when their age group catches up? How will these "special" kids feel when theyare no longer so special?

I dont know if anyone else here watched the little league world series, but it was something that had my kids on the edge of their seat. And why wouldnt it here were 12yo boys hitting home runs and stealing bases like the pros.....well not really right? They were really 12yo boys playing on a field that mist 9yos are starting to out grow. Yet espn was covering this event as if it were a major league event. Toting these kids as the best of the best. As if america couldnt see through that...i hope. What do you think will happen to those boys when they have to go back to their home towns and try out for their highschool teams on real sized feilds? Have their patentsputting them on this pedistal hurt them?

Wow this kind of went of on a rant....and yeah i know my typing sucks, but imon a phone.

So what is your opinion on this new wave of elite sports?t.


So I was curious this moning to see what others thought about this subject, so I took my questions to google.

Seems not not the only one with these opinions. I read this...and man I could have written this!

http://www.leaguelineup.com/bbr/files/Elite%20Teams%20a%20money%20making%20Paramid%20Scheme.pdf


By Tim Keown 

ESPN.com 

Who really is invested in elite youth sports teams? Is it the kids or their parents? 

Your kid is good, right? Really good? You don't want to brag, but he can do some things on the field that 

other kids his age won't even try. You played a little ball yourself, and you know the difference. 

Make no mistake: There's someone out there for you. He's putting together a team, and he's got a 

pipeline to the best tournaments. He knows people. He'll have tryouts and he'll tell you what you want to 

hear. It's expensive, sure, but who can put a price on your kid's future? If he's got a chance to be the 

best, he needs to play with and against the best, right? 

Judging by the direction we're taking preteen youth sports, it appears we have completely lost our minds. 

Gone crazy -- collectively and individually. It's become something of a hobby for me to read the local 

sports coverage of the three or four sub-20,000 circulation papers in my area, and I am here to report 

that the center cannot hold. 

The days of simply playing ball with your friends is over. It's a different world out there for the preteen 

athlete, with "Elite" and "Select" commonly turning up in the names of our youth sports teams and 

leagues. We're having tryouts for 10-and-under traveling baseball teams, and we've got 10-and-under 

basketball teams traveling the country playing against other fourth-graders at God knows what cost to 

the parents' bank accounts and the kids' psyches. All in the name of … what? Trophies? Exposure? A 

leg up on a college scholarship? The egos of the parents? 

The exploits of these kids, which almost always include tournament championships, national rankings 

from some little-known organization and perspective-free quotes from the coaches, are dutifully and 

breathlessly reported. If you didn't know any better, you'd think the 9- and 10-year-olds in my neck of the 

woods are the most remarkable 9- and 10-year-olds anywhere. But then you could probably say the 

same about yours. You just have to know where to look. 

I found a great nugget the other day: a notice for a 10-and-under baseball team that's having tryouts for 

its extensive fall tournament schedule. The notice included the following sentence: "The team needs 

competitive youngsters who are looking to play baseball at the next level." 


Let's parse that for a moment. Someone needs to explain to me what the "next level" is for a kid who's 10 

or younger. I dare you to define it. Is it 11-and-under? Maybe 12-and-under? And if so, are there really 

10-year-olds who are striving to play baseball at the 12-and-under level? Wouldn't it just happen naturally 

-- you know, with age? 

If you think that, you're behind the times. This is the age of the special child. This is the age of the parent 

who believes his or her kid playing Little League for the neighborhood team is beneath them both. 

(Despite the talent you see at the Little League World Series, make no mistake: Little League has 

suffered enormously at the hands of the folks who peddle dreams to the parents of the preteen set. Local 

independent teams -- most of them touting the supposed benefits of year-round play -- skim top players 

out of neighborhood Little Leagues.) This is the age of the youth-sports industrial complex, where men 

make a living putting on tournaments for 7-year-olds, and parents subject their children to tryouts and 

pay good money for the right to enter into it. 


There are palaces built just for the purpose of housing these tournaments. Big League Dreams is a chain 

of West Coast baseball complexes with multiple diamonds that attempts to replicate different big league 

ballparks. There's a bunch of 10-year-olds playing in Fenway, the 12s in Yankee Stadium and the 13s in 

Wrigley Field. (You haven't really lived until you've seen Wrigley's ivy-covered wall painted onto slabs of 

plywood. There are times you have to pinch yourself.) The fields are spokes that extend from the hub -- 

an air-conditioned restaurant and bar, where parents can sit inside and watch games away from the 

infernal heat. 

They go through every player's backpack as he enters -- and yes, there's an entrance fee -- to make sure 

he isn't trying to smuggle in any outside food or drink. PowerBars and Gatorades are confiscated. 

There are buzzwords in this business, sure to coax the gullible parent. The big three terms are "elite," 

"select," and "travel ball." Oh, the power of those words. Waving the prospect of "travel ball" under the 

nose of the ambitious father of a talented 9-year-old is like wafting a steak under the nose of a sleeping 

dog. After all, the more you travel and the farther you go to play a sport, the better you must be at that 

sport, right? 

"Travel ball," in this world, is meant as a synonym for "better ball." Parents say, "Oh, he plays travel ball," 

as a means of separating their kids from the riffraff who don't see fit to spend thousands of dollars to 

travel all over the place with their 9-year-olds. And if it's "year-round travel ball" -- a red flag across the 

orthopedic medical community for the dangers of repetitive overuse -- all the better. It's a status symbol, 

one promoted by parents and justified by the guys who collect tournament fees, and it's the main reason 

baseball in this country is widely becoming the province of wealthy suburbia. 

The action and drama was terrific at the Little League World Series game beweeen Georgia and 

Kentucky. But it's possible the very best young talent isn't playing Little League ball. 

Another nugget: A 10-and-under AAU basketball team from my Northern California town got the lead 

story in the sports section about a week ago. They've won six of seven tournaments, we're told, and they 

aren't stopping there. The coach is quoted as saying, "I am looking to go to North Carolina and Houston. 

And there may be a New York tournament." 


In the bylined story -- and yes, I remember the days when I had to cover Little League and adult softball 

(gack) for a local paper -- we are treated to thumbnail descriptions of the team's two best players before 

we're left with the following walk-off quote from our coach: "Some parents claim they're the best team in 

[the county]. I must agree with them."….These are 9- and 10-year-olds, which raises a question: 

What the hell are we doing? 

Here's one thing we're doing: We're creating a class of kids who are being labeled with terms such as 

"elite" and "competitive" and "best of the best." They're being worshipped by their parents and coaches, 

who keep statistics to post online and send photographs to the local paper. It's organized insanity. 

And this is just something to think about, but if there are countless elite and select teams where I live, 

how elite and select can they be? 

We went through a culture shift in American education in which self-esteem became a major focus. 

Slower kids became "challenged" or "special" as a means of eliminating pejoratives. A lot of good came 

of it; kids who were branded with demeaning terms found strength in their differences. 

Well, the pendulum has sure swung, hasn't it? We're nearing the point in youth sports where we need to 

stop the "elite" and "select" madness because we're raising a generation with too much self-esteem. 

They can't handle failure because they've been conditioned to believe they're too good to fail. They're 

being placed on teams that identify them as better than their peers on the whim of either a parent/coach 

or a businessman/coach. 


We're nearing the point in youth sports where we need to stop the "elite" and "select" madness because 

we're raising a generation with too much self-esteem. They can't handle failure because they've been 

conditioned to believe they're too good to fail. 

Parents line up to have their kids try out for under-10 fall baseball teams, where tiny kids compete for the 

right to have their arms trashed by pitching in four different games over two days of a weekend 

tournament put on by a for-profit organization that gives teams 10 minutes between games to warm up. 

There is the allure of better coaching (sometimes true), better gear (nearly always true) and better 

competition (debatable). Still, is there anything dumber than holding tryouts for 9-year-olds? We're not 

talking about Little League tryouts, which don't include cuts and are intended to place kids at the 

appropriate level for their ability. No, we're talking about putting 9- and 10-year-olds through an extensive 

tryout to keep some and cut others. 

And then, five years down the line when Little Johnny decides to trade his bat and glove for a skateboard 

and a piercing, his parents can scream and yell about the travel ball coach who ruined baseball for their 

son by taking their money and not playing him. It's an overgeneralization, sure, but the whole operation 

has a way of surgically extracting the fun out of a sport at an age when fun is all it should be. 

Here's what the dream-peddlers don't tell you: Anyone who has spent more than five innings watching 

10-year-olds play baseball -- or one half of a basketball game -- knows that athletic ability in a kid that 

young is directly related to physical maturity. The kid with hair under his arms in sixth grade is going to hit 

the baseball farther than the prepubescent kid who can't get out of the dugout without tripping over his 

own feet. It's really not that hard. 

When I played youth baseball -- it was called "Fly League" where I grew up -- everyone knew the legend 

of Buddy Wall. He was the 5-foot-10 guy from the other side of town who struck everyone out, hit 

mammoth homers and bench-pressed 225 at 12 years old. He was a couple of years older than me, and 

I lost track of him after Fly League days. Then, when I was 16 and showed up for the first day of practice 

for a local 16- to 19-year-old team, the coach had all the players introduce themselves. One guy, 5-10 

with a full beard, said, "My name's Buddy Wall." 


I was stunned. I wanted to yell out, "No! You're not Buddy Wall! Buddy Wall is bigger than life, and you're 

a backup outfielder on an average summer-league team." But he was Buddy Wall, and he still liked to 

play baseball even though the rest of the field had caught up with him. Today, Buddy would have been a 

travel-ball wonder at 9, feted and honored throughout the land. I'm guessing it would have made the 

inevitable fall to 19-year-old backup summer league outfielder that much harder to take. 

ESPN The Magazine senior writer Tim Keown co-wrote the autobiography of Pawn Stars' Rick Harrison. 

"License to Pawn: Deals, Steals, and my Life at the Gold & Silver" is available on Amazon.com. He also co- 

wrote Josh Hamilton's autobiography, "Beyond Belief: Finding the Strength to Come Back," 




Replies

  • mjande4
    by mjande4
    September 4, 2013 at 9:30 PM

    My kids do play club ball, but here's why.  They would not stand a snowball's chance in hell of making the junior high teams, let alone the high school's, IF they did not play club now.  We play basketball, football, and volleyball.

  • Anonymous 1
    by Anonymous 1 - Original Poster
    September 4, 2013 at 9:33 PM
    That seems unrealistic. Typically a coach is looking for the best, not the ones who played elite sports. Talent is talent, doesnt matter where youve played.

    Quoting mjande4:

    My kids do play club ball, but here's why.  They would not stand a snowball's chance in hell of making the junior high teams, let alone the high school's, IF they did not play club now.  We play basketball, football, and volleyball.

  • Dzyre1115
    September 4, 2013 at 9:35 PM

     My oldest son played football for fourteen seasons starting at the age of four.  At the end of his junior year he called it quits.  It was his full time, nine months a year, job, for so long.  It wore him out and he watched a very close friend get a life changing head injury.  I was disappointed but now, after one of my high school friend's nephew shot himself and his girlfriend after years in the game and countless concussions, I am grateful that he got out when he did.  The thought of him playing college ball just scares the death out of me now.  Too much injury risk, too much mental illness, it's just not worth it.

  • Anonymous 2
    by Anonymous 2
    September 4, 2013 at 9:37 PM

    You obviously have not been involved in the sport's scene for a while.  It's unrealistic at all. In fact, skill levels are well established by 5th grade and if a kid has not been playing prior to that, then they will have difficulty making a team. Of course if you live or attend a school where there is little to no competition, then it's not a true statement.  We live in a suburb where on the average 95 kids try out for 12 spots on the team and if you haven't played club, then you have no chance.  In fact the AD told the parents this at the fall sports meeting three weeks ago.


    Quoting Anonymous:

    That seems unrealistic. Typically a coach is looking for the best, not the ones who played elite sports. Talent is talent, doesnt matter where youve played.

    Quoting mjande4:

    My kids do play club ball, but here's why.  They would not stand a snowball's chance in hell of making the junior high teams, let alone the high school's, IF they did not play club now.  We play basketball, football, and volleyball.



  • Anonymous 1
    by Anonymous 1 - Original Poster
    September 4, 2013 at 9:39 PM
    Injury is of course a concern, but im more curious about the mental impact on our youth when they play elite teams at young ages. Typically these are teams that profit off selling you the idea that being on their team will get your child somewhere.

    I feel in General sports are great for children.

    Quoting Dzyre1115:

     My oldest son played football for fourteen seasons starting at the age of four.  At the end of his junior year he called it quits.  It was his full time, nine months a year, job, for so long.  It wore him out and he watched a very close friend get a life changing head injury.  I was disappointed but now, after one of my high school friend's nephew shot himself and his girlfriend after years in the game and countless concussions, I am grateful that he got out when he did.  The thought of him playing college ball just scares the death out of me now.  Too much injury risk, too much mental illness, it's just not worth it.

  • lucky2Beeme
    September 4, 2013 at 9:40 PM

    My kids are 24 and 25. They both played on the 'elite travel teams" you speak of. Neither of my sons felt or acted superior to their peers.My sons were total jocks yet some of their best friends didn't play sports . They were huge into music. Two now play i bands that have made recording and played to the public. Both my boys went on to play college sports. One went on a full ride. I will never speak ill of any sports elite or not. I was thrilled my kids loved sports and excelled in them. I would have been just as happy if their passion had been music or art.

  • Amanda52007
    September 4, 2013 at 9:41 PM

    Agree with EVERYTHING you said. 

    If you don't KNOW the game by the time you hit 6th grade, you can forget it around here. Middle school teams are competitive and small numbered...the kids have to know the game AND have an advantage over other kids to make the cut. 

    We play soccer for a league here.

    Quoting Anonymous:

    You obviously have not been involved in the sport's scene for a while.  It's unrealistic at all. In fact, skill levels are well established by 5th grade and if a kid has not been playing prior to that, then they will have difficulty making a team. Of course if you live or attend a school where there is little to no competition, then it's not a true statement.  We live in a suburb where on the average 95 kids try out for 12 spots on the team and if you haven't played club, then you have no chance.  In fact the AD told the parents this at the fall sports meeting three weeks ago.


    Quoting Anonymous:

    That seems unrealistic. Typically a coach is looking for the best, not the ones who played elite sports. Talent is talent, doesnt matter where youve played.

    Quoting mjande4:

    My kids do play club ball, but here's why.  They would not stand a snowball's chance in hell of making the junior high teams, let alone the high school's, IF they did not play club now.  We play basketball, football, and volleyball.




  • Anonymous 3
    by Anonymous 3
    September 4, 2013 at 9:41 PM
    My dd age 10 plays on a select team. Has for the last 3 years. That's how it is now a days. If u want to play hs sports u have to start playing YESTERDAY. We play year round, attending mostly local tournaments. I'm pretty sure she will make varsity as a freshman and possibly, probably get at least a partial scholarship to a small school to play basketball as well. Its worth it to us. She enjoys it and is pretty good. *shrugs*
  • Anonymous 1
    by Anonymous 1 - Original Poster
    September 4, 2013 at 9:41 PM
    I have 3 kids, 13,10 and 8....all play sports. My husband coaches and, although it kills me, my 10 plays aau baseball.

    It sounds like ypuve bought the hype.

    Quoting Anonymous:

    You obviously have not been involved in the sport's scene for a while.  It's unrealistic at all. In fact, skill levels are well established by 5th grade and if a kid has not been playing prior to that, then they will have difficulty making a team. Of course if you live or attend a school where there is little to no competition, then it's not a true statement.  We live in a suburb where on the average 95 kids try out for 12 spots on the team and if you haven't played club, then you have no chance.  In fact the AD told the parents this at the fall sports meeting three weeks ago.



    Quoting Anonymous:

    That seems unrealistic. Typically a coach is looking for the best, not the ones who played elite sports. Talent is talent, doesnt matter where youve played.



    Quoting mjande4:

    My kids do play club ball, but here's why.  They would not stand a snowball's chance in hell of making the junior high teams, let alone the high school's, IF they did not play club now.  We play basketball, football, and volleyball.




  • Anonymous 4
    by Anonymous 4
    September 4, 2013 at 9:41 PM
    My kids don't. I have no patience or tolerance for that mindset. I have seen too many kids who were really decent at a particular sport get passed over because they weren't in a particular "group" at school or their parents didn't know the right people (no, none of these children are my own) Around here, it's not about talent. It's about popularity and money. I won't allow my children to be taught those kinds of life lessons. They can play plain old rec and on the teams they're assigned.

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