The old problem with youth sports

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On deck, batting cleanup, is Wade Engelson from Post Falls.

Now he strides to the plate. Here’s the windup, and the pitch… CRACK! Engelson launches a moon shot toward left center. It’s going, going…gone! A home run!

Pardon the theatrical introduction, but The Press editorial board felt like giving Mr. Engelson a standing ovation after reading his My Turn column on what’s ruining youth sports.

Fear not; you didn’t swing and miss. Engelson’s opinion piece is scheduled for publication tomorrow on cdapress.com and in the Local section of the print edition. If you have any interest whatsoever in youth sports — heck, if you don’t give a good soccer kick for youth sports but you are concerned about the direction society is headed in general — please, tune in tomorrow.

Engelson speaks for so many of us who are fed up with the selfish, immature, bratty and grossly irresponsible behavior that’s ruining youth sports for approximately seven out of every 10 children. Did we mention the selfish, immature, bratty and grossly irresponsible behavior is coming from adults?

This is the kind of behavior that used to make shake-your-head-and-sigh videos, rare incidents of out-of-control soccer moms and Little League dads. These days, as Engelson chronicles with national statistics and local examples, being out of control is so commonplace, it often warrants little more than a shoulder shrug.

Meantime, the playing field is literally so toxic, a majority of our kids and grandkids are dropping out of youth sports by the time they reach their teenage years. And that’s a tragedy.

Parents’ ridiculously unrealistic expectations of their kids is a big part of the problem. When “average” professionals make more in a year than most mortals make in a lifetime, all that glitter seems like gold that rightfully should end up in mom’s or pop’s pocket. After all, Junior is the best player on his Little League team. Surely, the pros will soon be knocking on the door if that dumb coach or incompetent refs don’t ruin everything, right?

Wrong. What really needs to happen is that parents must put their kids’ interests first, and that amounts to the things that make youth sports so fulfilling: Learning teamwork, growing through self-discipline, and most of all, having fun. And the best way to minimize unruly parental behavior is to make it so unacceptable that most dimwitted adults won’t dare go ballistic. Consent or indifference only encourage the bad ones.

You’ve got a game tomorrow with Wade Engelson. For the sake of local kids, please don’t miss it.

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