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Is Today’s Youth Sports Getting to Be a “Hot Mess”? Advice from the Experts

Youth sports

If you read the headlines, you probably think the current state of youth sports is a shambles. It’s nothing like when you played. You worry that your children may never experience the thrill of competition, the teamwork and the health benefits that come from playing sports. Fights, swearing, taunting and a general lack of sportsmanship seem prevalent. What’s worse, it’s often bad behavior from parents making the news!

Bad news always makes the headlines. But, as youth sport blogger Alex Perdikis points out, there are plenty of inspiring true stories that don’t make headlines. Here are positive stories that prove true sportsmanship is still a priority in the youth sports world.

And for parents, a few pointers to make sure your children enjoy the benefits of playing sports without the nasty headlines.

When Finishing Last Means Winning

Matt Woodrum lives in Worthington, Ohio. Matt suffers from cerebral palsy, a disease that limits his mobility. That didn’t stop him from competing in a 400-meter race at his elementary school when he was 11. And it didn’t stop him from finishing.

Yes, Matt finished last. But along with his courage and determination, he had the support of his classmates. His classmates, teachers and other parents ran behind him cheering and shouting words of support to make sure he crossed the finish line. When he did, they congratulated him, hugged him and gave him high-fives.

Matt is an inspiration for all who know him. And so are his teammates who made sure a young man reached what seemed like an impossible goal and became a winner.

People Come First

West Liberty-Salem High School junior Meghan Vogel had just won the state title in the 1,600- meter race, but was not performing as well in the 3,200-meter final. Running in last place, she saw one of her competitors collapse on the track ahead of her.

Meghan could have run past and avoided a last-place finish. But, she didn’t. She helped the collapsed runner back to her feet and they staggered across the finish line together. What’s more, Meghan made sure her fallen companion crossed the finish line before she did. Meghan said, “She was in front of me the whole race, so she deserved to finish in front of me.”

Now that’s inspiring.

Beating the Odds

Rashawn King was a rising high school football star when he was diagnosed with leukemia. After missing his entire junior season to fight the disease, he came back and won all-conference honors as a senior.

The Make-A-Wish Foundation heard about Rashawn and asked him to name his wish. He didn’t ask to go to Disneyland. Instead, he asked for a free lunch for his classmates, teachers and school staff who’d supported him throughout his illness. The school had come together to support Rashawn with fundraisers and hospital lobby campouts during Rashawn’s many stays.

Clearly, good sportsmanship and caring still matter in youth sports. But the bad can’t be overlooked. How can you, as a parent, make sure your child is on the right side?

Parents, It’s Up to You

Out-of-control behavior at youth sporting events doesn’t just happen. In most cases, the blow-up occurs long after signs of trouble first appear. As a parent, it’s your job to make sure your child participates in healthy youth sports activities. Of course, it all starts with you.

Do you make derisive remarks about your child, the other team or your child’s teammates? Do you make fun of people on or off the field? Your child follows your example — good or bad.

It’s also your job to find a program that promotes healthy competition and superb sportsmanship. Attend events before signing your child up. Do the coaches display and demand excellent sportsmanship? How do the other parents behave? If you see people behaving badly with no checks, look elsewhere.