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Youth Sports: A Former Pro's Perspective

Along with ice hockey and basketball came years of playing football and running track, with a heavy emphasis on the field part of the sport. I experienced a fair amount of success and was selected as an All-American in track and field, but I was never the biggest star which did not bother me one bit. Being the best was not an expectation from my family or one I placed on myself. Unlike many of today’s kids, who are often forced to select a single sport, I was encouraged to play everything with an intentional focus on variety and fun.

I believe the exclusivity of one sport would have burned me out by the end of high school and likely ended any hopes of an athletic career. It saddens me to see the youngsters in my area extolled as sports prodigies and flown all over the states to play in incessant tournaments. I was not a phenom. Growing up my tournament travel radius did not exceed fifty miles, yet I still made it to the NFL for a lengthy professional career. I feel that staying positive and playing with passion can take a kid further than those tournaments.

It is rarely discussed, but it seems the organizers benefit the most from these tournaments and camps with their high prices to attend, the special jerseys, hotels, and transportation. It sounds like a nightmare. If a kid is any good, I believe that they will be discovered, even if they miss the cross-country peewee league tournament promised to launch them . . . bull.

I encourage my friends to put away their wallets and let their kids play.


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