Youth sports are supposed to be fun, right? Just kids having a good time with their buddies and getting some exercise. It’s not quite so simple anymore.
If you’ve gone to a 9-year-old’s soccer match or a baseball game recently, you realize the competition and the expectations are through the roof. Whether it’s out of control parents or win-at-all-costs coaches, the bar has been raised. But just how far?
I’ve been coaching soccer, flag football, and baseball for seven years. The yelling and bad behavior that comes from the sidelines these days is unbelievable.
Some days I don’t know how players handle all the negativity from their parents and coaches when they dare to miss a ball or let in a goal.
But then again, there are big stakes. The Huskies just got a verbal commit from a 14-year-old.
KIRO host John Curley is coaching his first year of youth football this season. What’s the latest in the arms race to win? Scouting. Sending people to other games to find out what future opponents have.
“When I first heard that people are going to scout, I thought, ‘well this is just crazy, just the crazy people do that,'” Curley said. “But then what happens is if everybody does it, then you have to do it. If you don’t, then you don’t have the tool of knowing what’s coming at you on that Saturday.”
Since Curley can’t make it to other games, he’s paying for scouting services and he said he’s likely not the only one.
“The whole thing is nuts,” Curley said. “I paid somebody $200 to get on a ferry, go to Bainbridge Island, watch an hour and a half of 9-year-old’s playing football, to come back and give us the report. That’s how nutty it has gotten.”
I contacted the unnamed scout, who didn’t want to be identified.
“I think the first thing that went through my head was, ‘what kind of parent, or who would ever consider scouting a 9-year-old football team,'” he said.
I can tell you from experience. Most kids have a tough time remembering their own plays. I can’t imagine they can’t remember the other team’s too. The scout agreed.
“I don’t think it will help them one bit,” he said. “It will help the coaches think they have an advantage over the other team,” but that’s about all, he thinks.
It’s gotten so severe in some leagues that parents can’t even take videos of their own kids playing for fear the tape will be used to help future opponents.
KIRO Anchor Ursula Reutin just ran into an offshoot of this scouting craze. Her son was kept out of recent jamboree to keep other teams from seeing what they have this year. Her son told her ‘They just don’t want to show all the cards.’
“I thought, oh please, are you kidding me?” Reutin said.
But that’s the reality of youth sports today. As a coach, it’s hard to draw that line between giving your kids the best chance to succeed and losing focus on why you’re there.
“But you can’t lose perspective,” Curley said. “If you lose perspective, the kids figure ‘why am I involved in this.'”
Some would say Curley has already lost perspective with his paying for scouting services, but I understand his passion and desire to help his kids succeed.
The number one reason kids quit sports: It’s no longer fun.
Does scouting at this age hurt the fun? Probably not, but it certainly ups the ante for the coaches.