- - Thursday, October 26, 2017

Youth sports have changed dramatically over the past decade.

Rarely do you see a group of kids on a school playground or at a park or playing an organized sport on their own.

Sure, parents are cautious because of safety concerns sparked by reports of concussions and CTE coming out of the NFL.

But when it comes to keeping kids from playing their own games, another another big barrier is the big business of youth sports. T

here are now several sports that have organized leagues and competitions for four-year-olds. According to Parenting.com, there are even rugby classes for 3-year-olds.

Kids get snatched up for competitive teams at younger and younger ages because there is money to be made.

Many are making a pretty penny at the expense of families under pressure to keep up with the crowd.

There’s a charge for everything — playing, coaching, tournament fees, equipment, awards.

And that doesn’t include the travel costs necessary for weekend competitions.

Many families now spend thousands of dollars annually for their child to play on a team with the hope of college scholarship or even a professional contract.

But according to Time Magazine, just 2 percent of high school athletes go on to play top level college sports.

So why do families do it? It’s not just the cost that hurts; the stress placed on young kids to play, compete, and win takes a toll physically and psychologically.

Repetitive use injuries are becoming more common for kids before their teenage years and many complain about the stress and pressure placed on them by coaches and parents to win.

“There’s been a tremendous shift in the American youth sports scene from playing for fun to playing for another reason.” said Daniel Klinkhammer, director of the Minnesota Youth Athletic Services when I spoke to him for this week’s edition of “Sport Psychology Today.

The biggest reason is the push for revenue, and the $15 billion youth sports industry is fueling it.

⦁ Dr. Andrew Jacobs has served as the team psychologist for the Kansas City Royals and numerous other professional, collegiate and Olympic teams. He’s hosted a sport psychology radio show for 26 years and is the co-author of “Just Let ‘em Play: Guiding Parents, Coaches and Athletes Through Youth Sports.”

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