The Peril and Potential of Youth Athletics

Remember, it's only a game. That's an important prompt in youth athletics -- not just for the kids, but even more so for coaches bent on winning and parents pressing to live vicariously through their children.

Against the backdrop of our societal obsession with sports is the craziness that has become youth athletics. Once it was just a game; the goal was a good time. Now it can feel like life or death. It's becoming increasingly difficult for kids to play simply for enjoyment, rather than feel dominated by the desire to "make it big" or appease their overzealous supporters.

"Kids can't just play anymore," laments Ed Uszynski, "they have to excel." Uszynski senses the pressure, not only as a parent, but as an observer of sports in American culture. He has been on staff with Athletes in Action for more than 20 years and has a doctorate in American Cultural Studies. He also is an elder in a local church and is the father of four little athletes. For Uszinski, youth sports isn’t just an exercise in his vocation, but in his Christian parenting and worldview formation.

Sports, he says, have come to have as much a grip on our cultural imagination as any other pursuit. The pressure is more intense than it's ever been. Parents and coaches take what they see on television from professionals and Olympians and bring it onto the field of play for 10-year-olds. Losing has become the great American sin, and like never before, our identities are getting wrapped up in winning and excelling.

Things are so out of proportion that some Christians choose to keep their kids out of youth athletics altogether.

[Read the rest of the article at Desiring God.]