The Case for Competition in Youth Sports: A Brief History
In the past there were many different types of youth sports. Some were organized, some weren’t. There was even a time when most kids played them all together in one place.
Today’s youth sports are very specialized and they’re not just limited to baseball or softball anymore either. They’ve gone from being “free play” to being regulated.
The first step towards regulation was the creation of leagues. These were essentially private organizations where parents could send their children to play ball games against other families’ children. This way, it was possible to keep track of which kids had done well and which hadn’t so that the best players would get noticed and eventually signed up with a team.
Unfortunately, these leagues often became corrupt because they tended to favor wealthier families over poorer ones (and sometimes the wealthy would hire coaches). Another problem was that the league owners didn’t necessarily want to pay out enough money to make their leagues profitable. So they’d have to do something else with all the extra money they made, like paying players less than what they really deserved or cutting back on the quality of the game.
Another problem was that these leagues were often run by men who wanted to prove themselves as good fathers rather than as good businessmen. In fact, sometimes two or more of these “fathers” would get into disagreements and the whole league would fall apart. The reason this didn’t happen very often is because the government started to get involved as it became clear that allowing children to play in unregulated situations was dangerous.
For example, some states didn’t allow children under a certain age to work, so they considered minor sports to be “work.”
Sources & references used in this article:
Is winning everything? The relative contributions of motivational climate and won-lost percentage in youth sports by SP Cumming, FL Smoll, RE Smith… – Journal of applied sport …, 2007 – Taylor & Francis
Social positioning and the construction of a youth sports club by D Kirk, A MacPhail – … review for the sociology of sport, 2003 – journals.sagepub.com
Youth sports as serious leisure: A critique by KL Siegenthaler, GL Gonzalez – … of sport and social issues, 1997 – journals.sagepub.com
Youth sports in the heat by MF Bergeron – Sports medicine, 2009 – Springer
Youth sports specialization and musculoskeletal injury: a systematic review of the literature by PD Fabricant, N Lakomkin, D Sugimoto… – The Physician and …, 2016 – Taylor & Francis
Youth sport specialization: how to manage competition and training? by L Capranica… – … journal of sports …, 2011 – journals.humankinetics.com
Youth sports: Implementing findings and moving forward with research by J Fraser-Thomas, J Côté – Athletic Insight, 2006 – mikethompsonjr.com
Overview of youth sports programs in the United States. by V Seefeldt – 1993 – ERIC