The Absurdity of Youth Sports

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Recently Kevin Price, Host of the nationally syndicated Price of Business Show, welcomed Paul Vecchione to provide another commentary in a series.

The Paul Vecchione Commentaries

Youth sports, once a bastion of fun and learning, have spiraled into a realm of high-stakes competition and undue pressure. This transformation, driven by well-meaning but misguided adults, threatens to rob children of the joy and developmental benefits that sports are meant to provide. It’s time to recalibrate our approach, returning to the core values of enjoyment and growth that should define youth sports.

The landscape of youth sports has dramatically shifted over the past few decades. What was once an arena for children to learn teamwork, discipline, and resilience in a playful environment has morphed into a hyper-competitive battlefield. This change is not without consequence. The pressures of early specialization, intense training schedules, and the constant pursuit of victory are leading to burnout, anxiety, and a loss of interest in sports among many young athletes.

Parents and coaches, often with the best intentions, push children to achieve levels of excellence that mirror professional standards. The allure of scholarships, professional contracts, and accolades can be compelling. However, this adult-centric view of sports ignores the fundamental reason children participate in the first place: to have fun. Studies consistently show that enjoyment is the primary motivation for kids to engage in sports. When the fun diminishes, so does their interest and willingness to continue.

Moreover, the emphasis on winning at all costs can have detrimental effects on a child’s mental health and overall development. The pressure to perform can lead to anxiety, stress, and even depression. Children begin to associate their self-worth with their athletic performance, creating a fragile and unhealthy self-image. This scenario is particularly troubling as it can lead to long-term issues, including a diminished sense of self-esteem and a distorted view of success and failure.

Early specialization is another concerning trend. The idea that children should focus on a single sport year-round to maximize their potential has gained traction. However, this approach overlooks the benefits of diverse athletic experiences. Multi-sport participation not only reduces the risk of overuse injuries but also fosters a more well-rounded athletic and personal development. Children who engage in various sports tend to develop better overall athleticism, social skills, and a broader appreciation for different physical activities.

In response to these issues, we need to reframe our approach to youth sports. The primary goal should be to create an environment where children can enjoy themselves, learn valuable life skills, and develop a lifelong love for physical activity. These are not novel notions, as youth sports have always ushered in a level of competition that is healthy for participants, but with underlying concepts to learn the sport and have fun, it’s that simple.

As a dad of two young boys who have become ravenous fans of baseball and who only want to play the sport in their free time, I have seen them grow exponentially when it comes to skill and determination to succeed. I credit their incredible coaches over the years, my availability to work with them in our backyard and their dedication to learning and playing hard. But it has become a source of contention when it comes to the competition they are surrounded by.

Yes, I want them to learn the value of hard work and dedication, competition and beating out the next guy to earn a spot on a limited roster. But all of that can still come with keeping the purpose of youth sports in perspective. With the actual chances of any youngster becoming a professional athlete incredibly low, let’s take the pressure off as parents, and as a society. There is too much at stake for our kids and adding the pressure of competition at such a young ages has become problematic. 

As a passionate parent who wants their kids to succeed, I am all for the foundation of youth sports and their value, but if the pressure at times has become too much for me, imagine what is doing to our kids. 



Paul was born and raised in Suffolk County Long Island and has called it home for the past 40 years where he and his wife are raising their two children. Paul has been an educator on Long Island since 2004 and holds two master’s degrees from Long Island colleges. With so much vested in this region, Paul has taken a keen interest in what has become one of Long Island’s most devastating realities; substance abuse and addiction. Having worked with teenagers his entire professional career, Paul offers a unique perspective into the mitigating factors that drive adolescent behaviors, particularly those which can lead to destructive decisions. Substance abuse and its ensuing crippling effects on the lives of people and their families has Paul’s attention and it is for these reasons Paul is the CEO of Long Island P.R.E.P. and Mission Z Podcast.

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Twitter/X: @PLongislandprep

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