Youth Sports - Where the playing never stops

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What happened to fun?

Youth Sports - Where the playing never stops


By John Cardullo, sports writer


The Fall sports season is here but for some sports, they seem to be a year-round season!


There was a time when the sports season was defined, where Major League baseball began in the spring, and ended with the Fall Classic in October. The basketball season tipped off in November, and ended in May, Hockey season went parallel with basketball, and Football kicked off in September and the Super Bowl ended the season in January.


My, how times have changed. MLB Baseball has crept up its opening day into the end of March, and if the World Series goes to 7 games, the season ends in early November! Brrr!!! The NFL kicks off in early September with the Super Bowl being played in February (approx. 2 weeks before spring training). The NHL & NBA starts their pre-season training in September and extends into June pushing almost to the 4th of July holiday. It is not uncommon for all four major sports to be playing at the same time of the year, October, November and February. Why? Well I suspect it has to do about the money. The longer the season, the longer the revenue stream.


This mentality has trickled down to the youth programs, where there was once a “season” that began and ended, then it was then time to move onto the next season, and so forth. Those days are long gone as well, now a day’s spring/summer baseball and softball rolls to a year-round sport. The season ends and then comes the “Fall Ball” season, and blends into offseason training at indoor facilities such as the Wide World of Sports or The Rhode Island Baseball Institute, both in Warwick, for individual training, Then we have the travel AAU teams rent facilities such as the CCRI athletic field house in both Warwick and Lincoln - to train all winter long.


Every youth sport does the same thing, they all offer off season “extended” seasons where skill building and individual coaching is the focus. “Very few sports take an off-season break’; Football and hockey do because of the physical toll takes on the body,” said Coach Marvin Novogrodski who coaches several sports in his career. “The youth player can literally play every day. Parents and coaches find that without the seasonal break there used to be, the player gets tired of the sport and stops playing even before they reach high school level; or worst, they play the sport with no passion and love for the sport. They play because that’s what their parents want.” Other reasons are because parents are trying to get their child an edge, the reasons vary but the child is not asked what makes them happy.


“The pressure of playing and being a success at the sport puts a lot of pressure on the child, but it also puts pressure on the parent, and this is where out of control parents become an issue,” said one unnamed official. “Because a financial investment was made by the parent, they expect instant success and if they don’t get it, it’s because the coach is lousy, or the officials don’t know what they are doing. What they fail to see is that they are causing the problem and making it impossible for their child to enjoy and possibly fall in love with the sport,” he concluded.


Don’t misunderstand that this isn’t every parent or every child, it’s the few that ruin it for the others, and for their kids. Things that need to happen is the seasons have to go back to being defined, a beginning and an end of the season. Give the child a break and let them go onto the next sport season, and do the same with that season, and the next. Let the child play, learn and have fun. They will advance on their own; give the coach and officials a break. There are no World Championship titles being awarded. Keep in mind that the coach you are criticizing can be you in a season or two and how you treat them is the way you’re going to be treated when you’re in that chair.


“What we need to do is get back to where sports are fun and there has to be an encouragement and support, not a sense of failure when the player or the team the player is on doesn’t win the championship.” Novogrodski said. “Rushing from basketball to personal coaching sessions with a baseball coach and going to play travel soccer at an indoor facility isn’t doing the player and parents any good. Everyone needs to take a step back and let the child figure out which sport, and at what pace, they want to play. They may not make the pros or the Olympics or even their high school team, but they will enjoy the experience and themselves - and isn’t what youth sports should be about?