by Emma Shuster ‘18
Approximately 45 million adolescents across the United States play sports on a select travel team. Kids spend their week nights shuffling to and from practices and games, all while trying to maintain family time, a social life, good grades, and periods of relaxation. Kids join club teams to have fun, make friends, and develop their skills in a particular sport, but the stress, contributes to some 70 percent of the participants quitting by the time they reach high school.
Over the past decade or so, youth sports, especially travel teams, have become increasingly more popular. Parents often sign their kids up or force them to try out for year-round travel teams with “top-notch” coaches, who promise to develop them into highly-skilled athletes. Prices vary depending on the sport with thousands of dollars annually spent on participation fees, equipment fees, travel expenses, and trainers. With the high monetary expenses and time commitment, young athletes feel pressured to “stick with it” even when they no longer find the activity enjoyable.
The pressures are intensified depending on where athletes live or attend high school. MCPS high schools regularly compete for state championships. At some high schools, 80 girls may try out for a spot on the varsity soccer team. At other schools, 30 boys will compete for a coveted spot on the 12-player roster for the basketball team. Many parents believe their child has to be on a certain travel team to increase their chances of making their high school team. As a result, young athletes walk away from the “rec” teams, that might actually allow them to have more fun and balanced lives.
If you think about it, how likely is it that a young teenager likes two-hour practices multiple times a week, or waking up early on the weekends to work with personal trainers, or staying in hotels to compete against random kids that they will never see again, or having to sacrifice their opportunity to try out other activities? You only get one chance to be a kid and to do all this to earn a spot on a high school team or a scholarship? Is it for the child or the parent? Who’s the real loser?