By Ken Kaiserman
Editor In-Chief

Who Knows Best?
The world our kids are growing up in is totally different from what we knew. I’m sure that’s true for every generation as we evolve technologically, but sociologically the family and childhood specifically, have undergone some dramatic changes that have a direct impact on youth sports.

One of the favorite conversations I used to have with my grandparents was to ask them about the dramatic changes they had seen during their lifetime. They were born at the beginning of the 1900’s and lived through the advent of the car, plane, radio, television and movies. In our era, we’ve seen the computer, the Internet, cable television, video games and cell phones all become mainstream. As parents we’ve also become far more involved in our kids lives and, whether for threats real or imagined, become far more protective. The cumulative consequences of these changes on society have created a “shut-in” culture where even if kids want to they often aren’t allowed to play outside without supervision
Who Knows Best?

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Coach’s Corner, Continued
Because kids no longer “play sports on the street until the street lights turn on” we have to sign them up for organized activities. Children don’t just go next door to play with their friends, but have to call first and arrange a “play date”. These sessions are often more filled with video and computer games then outside activities. When kids are alone their time is filled with the extra homework, text messaging, chatting and Internet surfing instead of practicing or playing sports. Youth leagues have been a beneficiary of these trends because of the increased social and family importance as an activity that these events now represent.

Sports are now organized; for the most part, the days of pick-up games at the park are gone. If kids want to play outside they do so with private coaching, travel teams and youth leagues. Consequently, if a kid likes sports he has a lot of scheduled activities. In addition, music, drama, after school programs, and piles of homework mean that all of our SportsKids are busy. Add in an active social life on the computer, emailing, chatting and texting in addition to the pull of video games and we’ve got a dilemma: how much is too much.

For a kid who wants to get better, or even just enjoys playing, there is always another lesson to sign up for or more practice that is needed. Should the kid play on a travel team, get private instruction, practice on their own or should we even let them play in the park without supervision? There is always more that can be done and there are kids out there doing all of these activities to improve, but as the saying goes: “there are only so many hours in the day”. So how do you determine the right steps to take for a busy kid who is already overwhelmed with a crowded schedule?

There should be two overriding factors: 1) what are the kid’s goals; and 2) how much can the kid handle? The problem with this, of course, is that they are kids and therefore really have no clue what they want to do, how much they can handle or, certainly, what the ramifications of their decisions are. While it is great to have a kid that is passionate about art, music, sports, reading, school (anything) and they can’t get enough of it, but that usually isn’t the case, especially with boys. That’s why we are the parents; it is crucial that we parents help our kids understand some of the larger life issues and consequences of a childhood decision.

What are the right decisions for our kids? Parents really don’t know either and can only use their best judgment based on experience, learning and logic. Is it better to be “well-rounded” in music, arts, athletics and
Coach’s Corner, Continued
everything else or a “specialist”? College entrance professionals now say top schools prefer the specialists, but that can change again any time. Obviously, school work comes first, but how much of their free time should be dedicated to improving in sports or even to “downtime”? If the kid doesn’t understand that playing an after school activity (sports, music, drama, etc.) is an important aspect of social development do parents have a responsibility to steer them in that direction? Even more so, short of being Earl Woods or Marv Marinovich, if the kid’s goal is to achieve in high school and beyond, don’t parents have to make sure the kid is doing what’s necessary to contribute that success?
Sports are what we used to do on our own for fun and it is still what our kids do for fun. While there are many more options today, sports still are what kids “love” to do. However, playing sports in high school is tougher than ever. Just like getting into college, the competition to play varsity high school sports is so fierce because of this social phenomenon. Kids are getting professional coaching at much earlier ages and as a result they are performing much better. Many of us that played sports in high school would probably not be able to play today. There is more specialization, playing year round to the detriment of other sports, and kids simply know the game better. Much like when we were kids and we knew that somebody might be playing more than us and getting better, today kids are playing more travel ball and getting better; if we want our kids to be able to play in high school they need to keep up.

If the kids have a goal of playing beyond high school then parents have to help them achieve those goals. That means teaching time management, signing up for travel teams and classes and balancing a schedule between school, downtime and activities. While I’m not a big fan of specializing before a minimum of twelve years old, kids who have passion for a sport should be allowed, or even obligated, to do more.

Even kids with exceptional athletic ability can improve; there is ultimately going to be a time for everybody to runs up against others that are as fast, strong or big as they are and the differentiating factor will be who is better fundamentally and mentally prepared to achieve. Balancing improvement against burnout, video games against outside play, accomplishment against fun, is never easy. However, a parent must get involved to help their kids reach their goals. Given the increased time obligations, competition and the inability to play unsupervised, parents must take an active role in planning their kids’ activities because they must be the ones that know best.

Care to comment on this month's article or poll questions or results?

Please visit The SportsKids Newsletter Forum and have your say!

Monthly Trivia Test

We’ve got great Trivia games for beginning to master SportsKids – try our “Half Court Shot” Basketball Game and find the answers to these questions at the bottom.
1) Who is the only player to win 8 NBA scoring titles?
A)      Michael Jordan
B)      Wilt Chamberlain
C)      Alan Iverson
D)      George Gervin
2) Which college program is credited to opening the gates to integration in college basketball?
A)      Texas Western
B)      Kentucky
C)      Michigan
D)      Kansas
3) Truly amazing because it was before a college 3 point shot, who is the player who’s 44.2 PPG scoring average is nearly 10 points higher than the next closest person?
A)      Calvin Murphy
B)      Pete Maravich
C)      Larry Bird
D)      Wilt Chamberlain
4) What was the name of the small Indiana school, the underdog in the 1954 state championship, that beat Muncie Central and was the inspiration for the movie “Hoosiers”?
A)      Bedford
B)      Milan
C)      Huntington
D)      South Hills
5) Who holds the record with 55 points scored in an Olympic game?
A)      Michael Jordan
B)      Oskar Schmidt
C)      Arvydas Sabonis
D)      Bill Walton
6) What man, at age 70, set the record for making the most consecutive free throws? He made 2,750 in a row.
A)      Frank McPhearson
B)      Rob Musgrove
C)      Tom Amberry
D)      Benji Kaiserman
There are trivia games in general sports, baseball, football, hockey, basketball and “Sports Math” in three different skill levels. Test your sports skills against kids around the world in the SportsKids Game Section.

Answers: (1) A (2) A (3) B (4) B (5) B (6) C
Monthly Sports Poll
1)  Are kids in your neighborhood allowed to play outside unsupervised?
- Yes
- No
2)  How many organized sports do your kids play each year?
- None
- One
- Two
- Three
- Four or more
3)  Do you play on any organized “travel team” in additional to the local league for any sport?
- Yes
- No
4)  On average, how many activities a week do you have for sports, music, drama, or other programs?
- None
- 1 to 2
- 3 to 4
- Five or more
Last month’s Poll results:
1)  Do you feel it is important to play some sport in high school?
- Yes (91.26%)
- No (8.74%)
2)  Do you or your child participate in any group training to improve your athletic skills?
- Yes (77.67%)
- No (22.33%)
3)  Do you or your child participate in any private training to improve your athletic skills?
- Yes (48.54%)
- No (51.46%)
4)  How many hours a week, including practice and training sessions, do you or your child participate in sports activities?
- Less than five hours a week (21.36%)
- 5-10 hours a week (33.01%)
- 10-15 hours a week (15.53%)
- 15-20 hours a week (12.62%)
- More than twenty hours a week (17.48%)

Cast your vote on these and other sports polls at