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Youth Sports: No Longer “Just For Fun”

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(Photo by Steve Bardens - The FA/The FA via Getty Images)

(Photo by Steve Bardens – The FA/The FA via Getty Images)

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(CBS Charlotte) — Have you noticed lately that youth sports are becoming increasingly more aggressive — and that’s not all…

A recent survey conducted by i9 Sports, a non-profit youth sports franchise, sheds light on how youth sports has become a game of “Hurt or be Hurt.”

In the past, children used to gather and compete in friendly and lighthearted games — but, that’s simply not the case today. Kids no longer participate in sports “Just For Fun.”

And it get’s worse:

- 59 percent of young athletes have voiced concern that they expect to be injured during an upcoming game.

- Half of the children surveyed said they hide injuries so that they can continue to play. 42 percent of kids who have been hurt during the game say they were called foul names if they sat out — some by their own parents.

- 16 percent say that either they tried to hurt another player during the game, or one of their teammates did.

- Some children said that their coaches, teammates, and/or parents have encouraged them to play while injured — 11 percent of children in the survey were offered money and/or gifts to play with an injury.

Children are under increased pressure to “Be the Best,” play through injuries, and help their team win — no matter what the cost. We recently had a chance to sit down and talk with Scott Parkin, owner of i9 Sports in Charlotte. Here’s what he had to say about the lack of sportsmanship in youth sports:

Q. Overall, would you say that there is a lack of good sportsmanship in children’s sports?

A. I think the problem is that good sportsmanship is not emphasized as much as winning. Adults are letting their own competitive nature run wild at the expense of teaching sportsmanship to the kids. That’s why at i9 Sports we require our parents and coaches to sign a pledge stating that they will be a model of good sportsmanship and after each game, a child earns a sportsmanship award for showing great conduct with teammates and opponents.

Q. When do you think the trend of kids playing while they are hurt or hurting other players started?

A. It’s difficult to say, but Hollywood certainly romanticizes the idea of athletes fighting through injury to compete, so maybe it started there. Our policy at i9 Sports is, “when it doubt, sit it out” so that if there is even a hint of injury, the child is removed from play until a licensed medical professional clears them to return. 

Q. What should children say to their parents who put too much pressure on them to “Be the Best” in their respective sport?

A. I think it’s difficult for young children to have that kind of conversation with their parents. At i9 Sports we try and pay close attention to that kind of thing and if I think a parent is putting too much pressure on a child, I’ll intervene on their behalf.

Q. Has poor sportsmanship worked its way into high school/college sports?

A. Yes. i9 Sports is trying to reverse this trend by emphasizing sportsmanship over winning, but ultimately our athletes will have to take what they learned here and carry it with them throughout their lives regardless of their future in sports.

Q. Do you think that coaches should be required to undergo training courses in good sportsmanship before being allowed to coach children?

A. Absolutely! i9 Sports coaches and officials are required to undergo background checks, then go through training and certification before they can take the field with our young athletes.

-Nichole Jaworski, CBS Charlotte

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