Single-Digit Soccer: The elite-industrial complex crushes all

Why do we play youth sports?

We’re here because you’re looking for the BEST of the BEST of the BEST, SIR!

“Your boy Captain America here … to find the BEST of the BEST of the BEST, SIR! … with honors.”

But a funny thing is happening with the race to the top. A lot of people are dropping out.

ESPN’s Tim Keown has a good spleen-venting piece about this phenomenon:

This is the age of the youth-sports industrial complex, where men make a living putting on tournaments for 7-year-olds, and parents subject their children to tryouts and pay good money for the right to enter into it.

And if they don’t hit the “next level,” they drop out. Earlier this year, The Wall Street Journal came up with numbers that bear this out. Baseball is in particularly bad shape, with towns having to pool together for Little League while numbers decline (or players just opt for “travel” baseball instead). But soccer wasn’t doing well in their figuring, either.

Other popular sports, including soccer and basketball, have suffered as youth sports participation in general has declined and become more specialized. A pervasive emphasis on performance over mere fun and exercise has driven many children to focus exclusively on one sport from an early age, making it harder for all sports to attract casual participants.

You can tell me this is OK, that we needed to make our youth sports more “serious” and specialized so we’ll have better athletes. Be prepared to keep arguing against a lot of us parents and writers who want our neighborhood kids to have sports options and haven’t seen elitism in youth soccer produce any players better than the scraggly-haired high school and college kids the USA used to send to World Cups.

Single-Digit Soccer: Keeping Sanity in the Earliest Ages of the Beautiful Game addresses a lot of these issues. Read more about it, then read it.

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