Today’s children need youth sports to teach them valuable life lessons and core values more than they have ever needed them in history. As recently as 15 years ago, popular television and music still exemplified many family values that we would consider, positive, such as friendship, caring, and respect, but that has all changed. The prevalence of pop culture, and the 24/7 exposure of our children to all forms of media and the internet, has inundated our society with what we would describe as negative values, such as fame, the importance of being rich and popular, and disrespect for authority.
A recent study demonstrated that the values expressed by the shows most popular with kids ages 9-11 have changed drastically in the last 40 years. From 1967 through 1997, shows such as The Andy Griffith Show, Laverne and Shirley, Growing Pains and Sabrina the Teenage Witch dominated the ratings in this demographic, and revealed little change in three decades regarding the values represented by the shows. The five most expressed values were community feeling, benevolence, image, tradition, and popularity, while the five least expressed values were fame, physical fitness, hedonism, spiritualism, and financial success.
Fast forward to 2007, and we had popular shows such as American Idol and Hannah Montana exemplifying the new top-five values of fame, achievement, popularity, image, and financial success, closely followed by self centeredness, ambition, conceitedness, and materialism. The bottom five values: spiritualism, tradition, security, conformity, and benevolence. Technology such as smart phones, tablet computers, and the like has given popular culture a new level of influence upon, and far greater reach into, our children’s lives. One small study found that fame has become the number one aspirational value amongst children ages 9-11, while another found that being famous, attractive and rich topped the list of the most important things for children under age 10. This is not preparing our kids for the what most of us would refer to as ‘the real world.’
Sports can be a positive influence, that counteracts these pop culture values. Unfortunately, our current youth sports system is failing our kids. Our schools and clubs are failing our kids. Our coaches are failing our kids. And yes, I believe us parents are failing our kids. Not because we don’t love our children, because we do. And not because we still wouldn’t do anything for our kids, because we would. We are failing because we have lost sight of the value and purpose of sports in our kid’s lives. We have turned youth sports into an adult centered for-profit business, that focuses on wins, losses, and mythical scholarships, instead of teaching our kids to be decent human beings. We have switched from developing people first, into developing players first.
As a result, sports is no longer fun, 3 out of 4 kids are quitting by the age of 13, and pop culture is winning. We need to change the game our kids play, make it fun, and keep them in sports that help prepare them for life. Thanks for being a part of the revolution at Sports Parenting Academy!