Little League sports was the ultimate socializer before it became every dream was to become a pro athlete.
With the first pick in the 2024 NFL Draft the New York Jets select........
As a parent of a child who plays youth sports these days hearing the above phrase, followed by your child’s name would undoubtedly be a moment of pride and absolute enjoyment. One's child reaching a life-long goal is every parents dream. Hard work and effort paying off in any part of life is what we desire; for sports this would be the ultimate ending. According today’s standards, it's the sole purpose of youth sports. Is that what Little League has become? With the amount of money being paid to pro athletes, fame and fortune has become the name of the game.
There's really no dispute that Little League sports has changed over the last 20 years. The focus has evolved to molding kids into pro athletes: Parents are now dedicating funds for offseason skill and weight training as well as position camps. Kids at 8 and 9 years of age with "workout" plans and are no longer playing games for fun. They've become professional athletes in training.
One of the most influential factors in the change in sport is poverty. Poverty's strongest visual grip is upon the Black community. While the atmosphere of despair has birthed some of sports’ most notable athletes; it has destroyed many more. Poverty promotes a resilient, survival mentality that contributes to the competitive spirit of sport. Unfortunately it also fails to incorporate other equally important values such as long term planning, maturity, and financial responsibility. Individuals who see their parents struggle to keep the lights on and food in the refrigerator, see sports as an opportunity for financial relief. Without going deeper into that at this time (and believe me the rabbit hole is deep). We must ask ourselves; has the pursuit of money made us, as a community and society lose focus on the life skills and lessons youth sports offer? Is the possibility of wealth worth the sacrifice of natural development through sport? Have we forgotten the family atmosphere of being part of a team? Shouldn’t we use this platform to help our kids evolve socially through interactions with coaches and teammates? Sports provide the highs and lows within the game that simulate the ups and downs we faced in life. Shouldn't we place the same level of importance on values and life skills as we place on throwing and catching balls or being able to dribble with your left hand? Shouldn't we have more focused training to improve mental health and understanding responsibility?
Can youth sports return to its intended purpose of extra-curricular activity and fun? Can it once again be a place where you can learn about life while playing a game? That's up to us, will we invest in ourselves? Will we take the lead or will we continue to wait on the draft?