Passionate Leader

JEFF: I would just like to see kids be kids. It is not only about their age. It is about competing with kids of the same size, strength, and social groups, too. Playing in the correct age group allows them to be successful and confident players. Playing up creates social, height, weight, and strength gaps, which can lead to more injuries. People are putting too much pressure on these players. Kids will grow up soon enough. I question if the kids want to play up or whether the parents want them to play up. We hear too much of this, “My child is too good to play with them,” or “He is better than the player in the next age group,” or “He is not learning in the under-10 age group.” Let kids be kids.

FRED: Is the behavior of spectators at youth-sports events getting any better these days?,

JEFF: I wouldn’t say it is getting worse, but the outbursts seem to be louder when spectators decide to make a scene. Some parents seem to think they know more than the coach and don’t care that the coach has 14 kids to play in the game.

FRED: Are travel teams good for kids?

JEFF: I would say yes and no; it depends on the child. Some kids are ready for the next step, are ready for this type of competition, and want to learn. Other kids are pushed into it because parents find the status appealing. I have a problem with travel teams for the 8- to 10-year-olds. They are too young and still very much at the learning level. Why do we need to be putting pressure on them at this age? Let them go out and have fun and learn the skills and rules of the game. There is no need to be playing four, five, or six games a week with tournaments every weekend.

Fred Engh is founder and CEO of the National Alliance for Youth Sports (NAYS) in West Palm Beach, Fla. He can be reached via email at To join more than 3,000 communities by starting a NAYS chapter, visit or contact Emmy Martinez at or (800) 729-2057.

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