Youth Sport Myths Abound

by Admin User | Aug 30, 2012

Every game you go to you will hear people use sport clichés such as “It ain’t over until it is over”. In the same way many assumptions of what youth sport should be have been proliferated across the United States between coaches and coaches, parents and parents, coaches and parents, as well as the media. Which of these assumptions is actually based on fact?

Coaches and scouts know how to and should find talented athletes at young ages.

The earlier you become an expert the better, you will have the upper hand and improve your chances of making collegiate and professional sport.

10 years, 10,000 hours to become an expertise – get them as soon as possible.

A champion at age 12 is going to be a champion at age 18 because they know how to win.

You have to have a crazy, over involved parent to develop a champion athlete.

Kids need to pick a sport and train with dedication to that one sport at an early age.

Losing often will destroy a player’s confidence; we need to make sure we protect our children’s self-esteem.

These kids are not motivated. You have to stay on them to motivate them.

Youth today only play for themselves, if they play sport at all. They are less interested in team than we were back in the day.

Many myths exist about developing athletic talent, motivating youth and getting the most of the youth sport experience. The purpose of this blog is to give you the facts based on science; not on popular opinion and surely not because a sports announcer said it was so! This blog will bust youth sport myths.

Every month I will grapple with a tough youth sport issue and shed light on what we know based on research, theory, and best practices. In the end I will provide the best recommendations possible and, at times, leave you with questions to reflect upon.

For example, do you know when your youth sport athlete should specialize in one sport and stop participating in other sports? The answer is not as simple as the age of the athlete, but recent thought has been not before ages 14-15 as well meeting several other criteria (don’t worry this will be the focus of a future post).

This blog is not about how you develop a youth sport champion. While I will provide strategies for enhancing performance, my focus will be more on how the adults involved in youth sport can keep their involvement in perspective. What does this mean? Coaches and parents have a healthy, age-appropriate philosophy of involvement in sport.

So, please come back to this blog as we grapple with some of the toughest youth sport issues and provide answers that you can take back to your local community and share. And, thanks to the National Wrestling Coaches Association for this opportunity. Until the next post – be an informed coach and parent!

Larry Lauer, Ph D

Director of Coaching Education and Development

Institute for the Study of Youth Sports

Michigan State University



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  6. Vincent J. Hudson, PhD, DPT, ATC | Dec 11, 2014

    I see the specialization of youth sports from a different perspective, long term medical. 

    Today, parents are marketed by a billion dollar industry, being told by "experts" and "guru's" that their child has the "potential" to be a (fill in the blank --- National team player, DI prospect, All American, Record Holder, etc).  Parents, this is simply marketing, as nobody knows how your fifth grader will mature, what pathway they will take and which, if any, sports will maintain their interest.  For every good story in sports, there are hundreds of bad stories.

    College Scholarships - If you or your spouse were not a DI athlete, why do you think that training (or usually overtraining), paying for personal instruction, personal coaches, expert guru's and the like, will miraculously make your child into a champion athlete.  To make good cookies, you have to have good ingredients!  If you and your spouse graduated from the local community college, why would you expect your child to attain a scholarship from Harvard?  Same premise.  Every parent whose child ever laced up a pair of sneakers is told, with proper instruction by the 'experts', your child will be best prepared to select the college or university of his/her choice, where colleges will be falling over each other to give you and your child a full ride.  REALITY - very few sports actually offer "FULL RIDES" for athletics.  DI Football and Basketball, outside of that, the vast majority (no matter what the parent of your child's classmate is telling you) are receiving a partial athletic scholarship.  Programs generally recieve between 9-11 full scholarships as dictated by the NCAA at the DI level.  Because of this, college coaches are annaully balancing tuition, books, room, board, etc between the 18-30 athletes on their roster.  Before beginning the road of expecting junior to save you hundreds of thousands of dollars with an athletic scholarship, learn the rules, talk with college coaches who don't financially personally benefit from summer camp attendance.

    Injuries - How many times have you heard of the ALL-State athlete going to the big-named college, or signing a pro contract directly out of high school, only to wonder what happened to that kid 2-3 years down the road?  Similarly, what happened to that 7th grader who was earmarked for setting all of the high school records in the coming years?  Where do these phenoms go?  Generally, once they stop playing, nobody really cares, as we focus upon the next phenom coming down the pipeline.  And what happens to those great players who make up a State Championship team, yet never actually continue play?  The fact is we in the medical community have seen a continual rise in overuse injuries over the last decade, predominantly due to parents who continuously drink the Kool Aid, that "If little Johnnie takes a season off, he will fall behind all of the other 'elite kids'".  The fact is that all of those elitists, who never take a season off, usually burn out, either physically, or mentally, so by age 15, they either cannot perform at the level they once could, or they have absolutely no interest in participating any longer, in spite of the motivational talks from their coaches and parents.  It has amazed me over the last 30 years in providing health care for athletes, where a parent will use the excuse to continue participation in spite of an injury, stating in front of the teenager, "Do you realize how much money I have invested in this child's athletic careeer?"  Now whose fault is it that Johnnie's body or mind has broken down, due to the season after season, conditioning after conditioning session, camps upon camps upon camps (do you really believe college coaches actually see your child during a tournament that includes 200 teams with 20 players on each team during a 2-day jamboree?).  The saddest leftover of the athlete is the destroyed body, with multiple surgeries, in an attempt to get to the promised land, that less than 1% actually acheive.

    REALITY - Use sports at a yound age to allow your child to develop.  Once the parent starts taking the game more seriously that the child, RED FLAG!  (ie, if you know the opponents stats, spend more time assessing the competition, or focus on game preparation more than your child).  Provide options, by multiple sports and multiple levels.  Avoid moving Johnnie up to the 12 year old level at age 8 --- children mature at a rate where age-jumping will lead to early injury and failure.  There is nothing wrong with being the best 8 year old!  No worries, as you will not be competing with the 12 yr olds for scholarships, because they will have already graduated!!!  Avoid Comparisons - Just because Mary used this personal trainer, magical drink mix or attended a specific camp, and went on to play in college, doesnt mean if your child follows the same pathway, they will attain the same status. 

    Lastly, recognize this tidbit of data given to me by a nationally ranked college coach...1. If you child is good, we will find them, 2. In most sports outside of football and basketball, college coaches dont really care about accolades and stats from high school, as 99% of the competitors in high school are subpar, 3. Your child may be the BEST whatever in whatever sport, but if I already have 3 All-Americans in that same position, I am not interested in your child, as he/she will not play much initially, and they will transfer to play at another school anyway, as sports aside from football and basketball cannot afford to simply carry a player they dont need to take away from another school. 


  7. Steve Vogel | Oct 28, 2014

    Weightlifting is a sport where many compete to help them in other sports.

    Age wise both of my sons began at roughly 8 and one half years old. One young boy who started around this age is now 14 and now holds the USA record in the Clean & Jerk at the 62 Kg weight class. He wouldn't be there if he wasn't focused upon weightlifting. My 13 year old just won his second USA 13 and under competition. We didn't discourage his basketball or soccer but he found lifting to be much fairer. Everyone gets to lift and everyone has an equal opportunity. The father coach in basketball at his grade school played favorites and my son who jumps well and runs fast never got to learn.

    He now is exclusive to weightlifting at 13. His interest two years ago was low but his last two wins have kept his very motivated. Many of the best 13-17 years olds are exclusive to weightlifting. All the very best are exclusive as I understand.

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