Published in the Owatonna People’s Press on Tuesday, July 14, 2015
by Mark Arjes – Founder / Director of Youth 1st
You have most likely heard that TEAM stands for Together, Everyone Achieves More. We have to ask ourselves, more of what? I remember when we took our son Eric to his first youth baseball practice. At the time we lived in northeast Iowa, and the program was provided through the local Park and Recreation office. I don’t really remember how much fun he did or didn’t have because as a well meaning Dad, I was taking mental notes about the instruction he was receiving from his “coaches”. The coaches were young guys, high school or college age, and looking back I am sure they were doing just fine. Plus, kids then, like kids today, love being around the older players, guys that they saw on the local varsity squad. My focus however, wasn’t on how much fun my son was having (it should have been), but rather on how much better I could do, over these “kids” that were coaching my kid.
It wasn’t long after that, I had made some calls, done some research and found a newly formed travel team. I was sure this would be best for Eric, after all we (I became an assistant coach) could certainly teach the game at a higher level than the other program and the kids on our team would develop sooner by playing a higher level of competition – other travel teams like ours. Our story took place 18 years ago, and contrary to what I thought back then, most of the 14 kids that were on our U11 – U12 travel team never actually played varsity baseball in high school. The reality then and the reality today, is that my focus as a parent, should have been more about making sure my son was having fun playing with his buddies and less about the level of competition that would accelerate his development as a baseball player.
As parents and coaches, we have been tricked into playing the youth sports lottery, investing substantial amounts of time, money and emotions chasing college scholarships, something that we have less than a 1% chance of attaining according to the NCAA. ESPN recently ran a story about parents that are now holding their kids back a grade, not because they are concerned about how they would handle school, but so they can become the more mature athlete in their class as they grow older. They are literally chasing college scholarships for kids as young as 5 years old!
Together, Everyone Achieves More. More of what? I tell the parents and players on our high school teams, “Nobody is going to get a college scholarship or a job because we win a JV or 9th grade game this season. So, I do not care what our win / loss record is. What I care about is your effort, your attitude and your conduct. The rest will take care of itself.” That is a hard message for our young people to understand today. The current media culture is competing for their hearts and minds with messages of self-promotion, entitlement and vanity. When was the last time you saw a professional athlete not draw attention to themselves for scoring or making a great play?
As adults we have a responsibility to provide balance, boundaries and the building blocks needed for our kids to become healthy, happy adults. The focus of youth sports must be to teach life lessons, develop values and build character in our young people. True identity theft happens when we allow our kids to be defined by what they do or achieve (grades, trophies, medals, titles) over who they are as people.
I want to thank the Owatonna People’s Press for the coverage they provide to all our local and area youth activities programs and also for the opportunity to share this Youth 1st message. Thanks Owatonna for putting your Youth 1st!
Youth 1st connects Community, Character and Conduct through values-based youth development. Youth 1st is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. We put Youth 1st by implementing strategies that go “Beyond the Score”, such as the Real Winning Team Award program for conduct and sportsmanship. You can email Mark Arjes at firstname.lastname@example.org