The Trouble With Youth Athletes Today

The Trouble With Youth Athletes Today

“The children now love luxury; they have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise. Children are now tyrants, not the servants of their households. They no longer rise when elders enter the room. They contradict their parents, chatter before company, gobble up dainties at the table, cross their legs, and tyrannize their teachers.

The first time I heard this quote, I was with one of my favorite coaches at a clinic, Mike Lingenfelter of Munciana Volleyball. We both looked at each other and I spouted off how this quote from probably from the 1950’s.

This quote was from Socrates. Years B.C. Before Christ!

We chuckled in agreement.

One of my favorite quotes about the issues with youth athletes today is simply this…

“Those who criticize our generation forget who raised it.”

Parents joke about how kids don’t interact with one another and just text. Well, when you’re in any lobby or waiting area, all of those same parents are on their phones thumbing away with texts and emails as well.

One of the biggest ways that we socialize with others is in sports in through our own kids and we become part of the same parent clicks through these teams as well. As parents, we even follow fashion trends often adopted by youth.

The trouble with youth athletes today may be tough to swallow, but it is US. You and Me. Parents. Dr. Rob Bell Discusses Sports Parents and Mental Toughness on his site, check it out! 

Here are three ways that we cause the trouble with youth athletes today.

        1. We DO NOT let them fail.

I don’t want a kid striking out with the bases loaded to lose the game.

It sucks, it’s embarrassing, and it hurts.

These events have the potential to really make a lasting impact (if we let it). However, is there a better laboratory in life for a kid to experience this type of failure?

We have the opportunity after these setbacks, to coach our kid up, and let them know that failure is an event, not a person, and to reflect on what they can get better at.  If we allow them to experiences these harsh setbacks in sports at a young age, then they develop the resources to deal, handle and overcome these negative experiences. The alternative is that they have these setbacks for the first time in college and they do not know how to deal.

Our job as parents and coaches is to build capacity NOT dependency. Do we allow them to fail or do we allow them to blame others for their own mistakes and failures?

       2. We DO NOT allow them to take ownership.

One reason why I wrote Don’t “Should” on Your Kids: Build their Mental Toughness is because of a kid I saw at swim practice.

He was on the side while everyone else was in the pool warming up. I asked if he was okay and he replied that he forgot his goggles and his mom was late bringing them. hmmmmm. I can guarantee on a road trip, this same kid will NEVER forget his hair gel.

The trouble with youth athletes is that when we call their teachers, talk to the coach, and save them from messing up, we are removing their ownership and responsibility. 

Want to know why we resent having to nag them all the time to clean up their room, or “don’t forget to pack this”, or “do you have your water bottle”? It’s because we never made it a priority for them to accept responsibility and the natural consequences of forgetting something, so we did it for them!

        3. We give them the answers.

We know the answers to life. We’ve experienced it, we’ve gone through it, the good and the painful.

We know that LIFE IS TOUGH! And since it is so difficult, we want to impart and share our experience, strength, and wisdom to those who we love the most. So, we give them the answers and we let them know if you do A, B, & C, then you’ll be successful.

We want to impart our WISDOM to them. But, WISDOM can only come from experience and you can’t google an experience. We are giving them knowledge instead.

Giving them the answers does not improve their experience or allow them to learn it on their own.

One of the biggest frustrations by collegiate coaches is that when adversity hits their players, their athletes cannot figure it out on their own. They want the coaches to tell them how to fix it and what to do, right now! They are not to blame either. It’s what we’ve been doing their entire life.

They ask the questions: “why am I struggling?” “what is going on?” or ” how do I fix this?”  And so we slide them the answers immediately, without allowing them to process, develop their own game plan, and have them assess and reflect.

When we do this enough, we are neglecting their own problem solving and creative skills.

Unfortunately, it’s not how sport or life works. Things will go bad, and we have to be able to adjust and find a way. Check out the article on 4 reasons to save the endangered athlete.

        4. We are too focused on the results.

If parents knew what it took to be a professional athlete, they’d NEVER sign up. The majority of folks have no idea the talent level or sheer obsession it takes to be a professional athlete. However, 26% of parents have reported that their kid could be a professional athlete.  

My question when I hear this absurd number is simply “who told them that?”

We often make decisions based upon the outcome, results, and future benefits that sports can provide. The almighty scholarship. Check out our article of 6 effective ways of getting an athletic scholarship.   

Unfortunately, when we think in these terms, we soon find that they are playing year-round sports, playing every single weekend of travel ball and husband and wife have split responsibilities taking care of different kids. We lose control and feel like (if we don’t do this and this then, they won’t be successful).

A scholarship is a wonderful accomplishment. But, it can’t be the main reason why your son or daughter is playing sports. If it’s the driver, then every single setback will lead to greater frustration on your part. If frustration has reached a critical mass then you’ll like- 10 reminders if you’re a stressed-out parent of an athlete. 

We need to stress and communicate the multiple benefits that simply playing sports can provide fun, hard work, goals, resiliency, grit, perseverance, communication, and leadership, and tons others!


Dr. Rob Bell Mental Toughness

Dr. Rob Bell is a Sport Psychology Coach. His company DRB & associates is based in Indianapolis.  Some clients have included: Indy Eleven, University of Notre Dame, Marriott, and Walgreens. Check out all the books on Mental Toughness.  Please check out the podcast 15 Minutes of Mental Toughness as we interview expert athletes and  coaches about Mental Toughness and their Hinge Moment.