Stapleton All Sports is located in the Stapleton neighborhood of Denver, CO.
We are a community focused youth sports program intent on providing children in the area additional opportunities for skill development.

SAS Youth Sports Newsletter

How Soon Should Athletes Begin Playing Tackle Football?

Football is the most popular sport in America, and it isn't even close. A Harris poll conducted in January showed that 41% of respondents chose pro football (30%) or college football (11%) as their favorite sport. Second place was pro baseball at 15%. In regards to high school participation, data from 2014-15 shows there were roughly 1.3 million high school athletes participating in tackle football. Track was second with about 580,000 participants, basketball had 540,000 participants and baseball had 485,000 players. Football is not going away anytime soon, and is America's sport. There are some who believe the dangers of head trauma for football players will ultimately cause the demise of the game. I do not agree with this, but the scientific discussion of whether or not there should be tackle football is for another article and with the aid of an expert on the matter.
What I want to discuss is when your athlete should transition from flag to tackle football. We first need to understand that all kids are different and develop physically and mentally at a different pace. Some kids may be physically and emotionally ready for tackle football before others, and that's okay. Which brings me to my first important point: starting tackle football earlier will not give your athlete any decided advantage over those who start later. I did not start playing tackle football until 7th grade, and went on to play in college. I know for certain had I started at an earlier age, my career would not have been any different. I would not have played pro football or Division I college football because of any experience I gained playing tackle football as an 8, 9, or 10 year old. There are countless examples of football players in high school, college, and professional, where that was their first experience playing tackle football.
The second thing I want to discuss is the emotional development of an athlete, and the danger of putting your child in a tackle football program too early. Some kids are just more mentally tough at younger ages for a myriad of reasons. When they get hit hard, knocked down, or tackled, they bounce back and can process the concept of "toughing it out." Other young athletes aren't ready for that, but it doesn't mean they never will be. Now, let's say that there is a young athlete who could be the next all-state quarterback. He is pushed into tackle before he is ready, and gets tackled hard in a game and decides he no longer wants to play football. We just lost an all-state quarterback simply by pushing him in to tackle football before he was ready. Unless you are absolutely positive your athlete has what it takes to get hit and get back up, there is no reason to push him into tackle football early.
Finally, one of the great things about flag football is the fluidity of the game. Flag football allows players to play several positions, regardless of their size and skill. Kids still get a strong understanding of the game and see it from several perspectives both offensively and defensively. When kids begin tackle football, often coaches put them at one position, sometimes dictated by league rules in regards to the weight of the player. Kids may also only play one position so that coaches can improve the athlete at that specific position, increasing their chances of winning games. Pigeonholing players into a specific positon at a young age is not fun for the athlete, and actually may not be the position the player wants to play or for which they are suited.
The most compelling argument I can think of for kids to play tackle football at a young age is if they know they may not be able to play it when they are older. Tackle football is a lot of fun. As athletes get older, football becomes a big man's game (and fast, and athletic, etc.). So, there is a chance an athlete's only chance to play tackle football is when they are young before the sport outgrows them.
When it comes to how soon an athlete should begin playing tackle football, it can be case by case. My blanket recommendation is that it's not necessary to play tackle football until athletes are 12 or 13 years old. This doesn't mean I think it's bad for kids who are ready to play to play before then. I simply don't see any advantage for the athletes who do so.

Youth Sports: Back to Basics

A few years back, I went to watch a nine year old tackle football game involving my friend's child. It was fun to watch and the league overall seemed to be run very well. One thing bothered me, however. Overall, players had poor stances and it seemed coaches either did not recognize this, or failed to instruct the kids when it was noticed. Players were too upright, or back on their heels, or not taking good first steps on the snap of the ball. It was clear the coaches wanted to win the game, but not at the cost of taking the time to make sure the basics were covered. Coaches (and parents) seemed more concerned with scoring touchdowns and "hitting somebody"" than making sure the athletes received good base instruction to help them build on for future competition. I have seen this in every sport and many different programs. Youth sports programs need to get back to basics and make sure kids are in the right position, in a good stance, and are using good footwork.
Every sport starts with a stance, and most are very similar. An athletic stance allows athletes to react more quickly, change direction, jump, bend down, hit a ball, and so on, all more efficiently. The stance is our starting point. If athletes aren't in a stance, they aren't ready to play. Coaches need to harp on this for young athletes all the time. Stance! Stance! Stance! Athletes need to get to a point where it becomes automatic to them that before a play, they are in their stance.
The great thing about coaching stance is that every athlete can do it. Not every athlete can be the fastest runner, the highest jumper, the best hitter, or the best shooter, but everyone can get in a stance. Coaching stance isn't fun, and it certainly isn't always fun as a young athlete to work on. But coaches, parents, and athletes need to understand why it's important. You want to create good habits now and build a good foundation so the kids can work on more challenging aspects of the sports they participate in as they get older. Otherwise, I assure you, their junior high, high school, and college coaches will be forced to spend time working on stance.
A great way to illustrate the importance of stance and footwork is to watch pro athletes. Baseball, in particular, makes it very easy to notice. Watch the defensive players' positions as the ball is pitched. Watch where the batter is at when the ball is pitched. Watch what the runners on base do when the ball is pitched. They are all in great ready position stances. Pro athletes don't do the basics kind of right, they do them exactly right. Yes, they are phenomenally gifted athletically, but not everyone who is extremely gifted makes it to professional sports. Usually, it's because they never mastered the basics. It takes years of hard work and focus for athletes to develop these habits and for it to become second nature to them.
As a parent, make sure the youth programs and coaches your young athletes are working with focus on the important basics of the game. Becoming good at the basic things when they are young is ultimately what will pay off when they get older. Don't lose sight of what's important for young athletes. Make sure they are having fun and improving their skills, and don't focus too much on the outcomes of the games. Yes, it's fun to win, and it is okay to want to win, but make sure you're praising your athlete's effort to do things the right way. That's what will make them better.

Youth Sports: It's Not About the Coach

If you have kids in a "competitive" sports league or watched a youth game of a relative or family friend, you more than likely have seen an overzealous coach. It's the coach who's always yelling at players and referees. The coach who's not playing all the kids. The coach who bases his team's success strictly on wins. It's the coach proudly holding a trophy in the air along with the kids after a win. In general, it's the coach who feels they are one of the competitors. They are not.
Across the country, many of today's youth sports programs put way too much emphasis on winning, and this is reflected by the coaches. Coaches of youth programs should not have winning as their number one goal. Quite frankly, winning is easy if you are willing to take shortcuts, which is what is happening. There are a number of negative side effects to having a "win first" attitude.
The biggest problem is early age attrition. Coaches may decide not to play kids who have yet to peak. Many of these kids could end up quitting, either because sitting on the bench is not fun, or their parents feel they won't have future success and convince them to stop playing. It's not always clear how good an athlete will become when they are four to ten years old. Kids develop at different ages, and a coach and a program's goal should be to keep as many kids playing sports for as long as they can. Coaches and parents should never be the reason an athlete stops playing a sport. Athletes in a competitive environment are not going to have the exact same playing time or play all the positions, however, a coach should never completely shut down the athletes who have not quite developed. Coaches should spend just as much time coaching them as they do their star players, provided they are willing to listen.
Finally, parents and coaches need to keep things in perspective while their athletes are competing in youth sports. A main goal of a youth sports coach is to keep kids playing by creating a fun environment. Secondly, you are trying to teach them how to do things the right way, so when they practice, they continue to improve, and put themselves in position to be successful when they get older. Never in high school or college did a coach base my playing time on how good I was when I was nine. Although winning is fun for the athletes, parents, and coaches, understand that winning games when you are eight doesn’t mean a whole lot. It's absolutely okay to put kids in a competitive environment where the kids are trying to win. Just make sure the team/league is focused on the kids. Because it's not about the coach.

When it Comes to Youth Team Sports, Scoring is Overrated

With fantasy sports and several round the clock sports networks, it's easy to lose sight of how games are won. Fantasy sports teaches us only scoring is valuable. What we see today on sports networks are dunks, touchdowns, fantastic goals, and home runs. What we don't see are smart passes, great defense, consistent blocking and tackling, and bunting your teammate over when your team needs it. This is not a criticism of the sports networks. That's what people want to see. But due to the constant bombardment of these highlights, people lose sight of how games are won.
When I was in college, we had an All-American running back on our team named Bob Beatty. Of course, he scored several touchdowns, but he could have scored more. Often Bob would get tackled inside the five yard line, and we would hand the ball off to our big fullback who scored more touchdowns than anyone in the Iowa Conference that year, including Beatty. Beatty could have scored every one of those, and he probably wanted to. But, as teammates, no one ever questioned Beatty's value because he didn't have as many touchdowns. The team knew he was significantly more valuable than our fullback, as he gained more yards, was a great pass receiver, an excellent blocker, and a supportive teammate. Point being, as you get into high school, college, and pro, teammates are able to see value (or lack of) in each other that outsiders do not.
So I cringe when parents are talking about their young athletes and the first thing they discuss is how many touchdowns they scored, baskets they made, or goals they scored. Of course, that is bound to come up, and that is understandable. But, when kids hear their parents bragging and talking about points and goals, all that does is reinforce the fantasy and highlight mentality that scoring is everything. When I talk to my brother about his kids, I want to know how they played. Were they aggressive? Were they working hard? Are they getting better? Did they work well with their team? Are they enjoying playing? Of course I hear if they scored, but that is tertiary to several other things I want to know about their play.
There is absolutely value in scoring and I don't want to minimize that. The drive and effort it takes for an athlete to push themselves to get into the end zone, score a basket, or hit the puck into the net is extremely admirable. Just make sure your young athletes understand that winning at high levels is a team effort. And to be a part of a winning team, you need to do several things well. Not just the scoring.

Understanding Aptitude and How it Relates to the Single Sport Athlete

People are born very similar. We have ten fingers, ten toes, two eyes, two ears, one nose, etc. But we also have obvious differences. These include things like height, skin color, eye color, hair color, facial features, etc. We also have differences the eye cannot easily detect. These include the nine types of intelligence such as spatial intelligence, music intelligence, logical-mathematical intelligence, interpersonal intelligence, spatial intelligence, and so on. Most people have difficulties understanding those who excel in fields such as Mozart, van Gogh, or Einstein. These individuals clearly had special gifts no one else had. And although people of genius or success in any field work hard, most understand they were born with unique gifts. To put it simply, I could work on music 18 hours a day and never come close to what Mozart could do in five minutes of effort. That's because Mozart had a much higher aptitude for music than I do.
People are born with an aptitude in every aspect of ability, whether it is math, art, music, etc. Most never reach their aptitude because of the amount of time and effort it takes. But, if we all put in the same effort in every area, we would NOT be equal. We have different aptitudes in different areas. And although these aptitudes are not recognizable by just looking at someone, most people understand it as fact.
One of the nine types of intelligence is bodily-kinesthetic intelligence, which essentially is our athletic ability. Everyone is born with athletic ability, but we are certainly not born equal. This is difficult for people to understand, however. If I told you all you needed to do to be taller, smarter, better looking, or more artistic is to work harder in these areas, you would scoff at its ridiculousness. But, for some reason, people generally believe that our aptitude in athleticism is different. That if we work hard, we can always do better. That if we spend more time on something in athletics, we are guaranteed success. However, this is the EXACT same as saying if we spent more time on music, art, or being more attractive we would be guaranteed success in these areas. It’s simply not the case. In my life, if I had the best track coaches and access to the best training, work ethic, equipment, etc., I not only would never have competed with Usain Bolt, I never would have made a US regional final in the 100 meter dash. That's aptitude.
So, how does this apply to the current state of youth athletics? Despite several studies indicating that well-rounded athletes are more successful, parents continue to be pressured into having their kids focus on one sport at very young ages. Although more doctors, coaches, and experts are speaking against young, single-sport athletes, what is not being discussed is aptitude. Just like you, your kids have an athletic aptitude. They will absolutely improve the more they work at something, but only to their highest aptitude.
More and more parents tell me their child just plays baseball or lacrosse or football, or soccer, etc. And these are parents of 8, 9, and 10 year olds. They believe the best chance for their athlete to succeed is to focus on one sport. But this is not the case. As kids get older, aptitude begins to show more and more. Some kids who played just baseball, football, LAX, basketball, etc., will get beat out in junior high or high school by kids who either only played that sport seasonally, or in some cases, may not have played that sport at all. Those kids simply had a higher aptitude. For the most part, as kids get older, they get more coachable, and can learn more quickly. For that reason, coaches are often looking for aptitude when they build their teams. This is even more evident at the highest level of professional sports. We often hear of guys getting drafted into the NFL and NBA who are described as "raw talent” or players who have a “big upside." That's aptitude.
When parents understand aptitude and its application to sports, they may be more likely to encourage their athletes to play multiple sports. There are many benefits, short and long term, for kids to compete in several sports. The benefits of being a young single sport athlete, short and long term, are extremely limited. The only reason kids should stop playing any sport is through natural attrition, which is when the athlete determines they can no longer compete, they have another sport in the same season, or they simply no longer enjoy playing. It shouldn't be because they feel they can only compete if they play one sport. For better or for worse, our aptitude often dictates our success.

Is the Youth Sports Trophy Culture Hurting Young Athletes?

In the last month, there has been a lot of talk about participation trophies and the supposed "everybody gets a trophy" culture. Professional football player James Harrison decided to send his son's participation trophies back (link send his son’s participation trophies back to: http://espn.go.com/nfl/story/_/id/13447657/james-harrison-pittsburgh-steelers-takes-away-kids-participation-trophies-says-awards-earned) which caused a lot of conversation. What we typically hear is that this "culture" is causing our athletes/children to become weaker and more entitled. Usually, it is a dad who grumbles, "we didn't all get trophies when I was a kid." Maybe, maybe not. What I think is getting missed in this conversation is, "who cares?"
There most certainly are tremendous athletes out there who received participation medals, or trophies or ribbons, yet they were somehow able to overcome this and excel in athletics. How is this possible? There are two reasons. The first one is that these awards, for the most part, satisfy a short term need of a young athlete. They feel they worked hard, and are proud of the recognition that they were on a team or involved in a sport. But, for most kids, this satisfaction is only short term. They don't sleep with that trophy for the next year (maybe a week), and they may put it on their shelf in their room, but they don't need to bring it everywhere they go. Most of these athletes don’t stop playing sports because they received a trophy, in fact, some may continue playing because of it, and help increase their satisfaction of participating. Parents reward their kids in different ways, whether it be through a snack, time on a computer game, TV time, more play time, etc. These are all short term rewards as well, and we don't feel they are destroying our kids. And that's all a trophy is. A short term reward.
I am certain I received some sort of medals, trophies, and ribbons in youth athletics as a kid, but I don't recall receiving a single one of them. But for some reason, our generation believes we were mentally tougher and better than our kids' generation because we didn’t get trophies. Have you seen some of the young athletes out there today? There are some phenomenal young athletes in this country, and in this neighborhood. Kids are working harder than they ever had to because of the knowledge we have on health and fitness, and how competitive the environment is. Kids are getting convinced by their parents to play one sport (see article below) at a young age just so they can potentially excel. And all the while, many of these great young athletes, who may end up being college athletes, receive participation awards.
This leads us to the second reason trophies don't matter, which is understanding the ineffectiveness of single variable parenting. Parents often focus too much on single variables instead of looking at the literally thousands of variables that will affect the outcome of their child, or in this discussion, young athletes. One of the easiest examples to site on this is whether or not you should physically discipline your children. Whenever this discussion comes to the forefront, people step forward and say, "my parents spanked me and I turned out great," and another group steps forward and says, "my parents didn't spank me and I turned out great." The truth is, there is no definitive answer on this either way. You could never have a long term study with a control group. So many other things go into how you turned out as a human being other than whether or not you were spanked. How much time did your parents spend with you? Did you feel loved? Did you have a strong support group of friends, teachers, coaches? What kind of neighborhood did you grow up in? And so on.
This concept applies to young athletes as well. Athletes succeed or don't succeed because of a large number of variables. Way down the list of success or lack of success would be whether an athlete received participation trophies or not. To me, when people focus on these single variables, it's laziness, or a lack of willingness to examine the big picture. Every day, parents have at least 200 decisions to make that may affect the outcome of their child or athlete. No one is going to get all of these right, if there even is a "right". The job as a parent is not do everything right, but to minimize the number of big mistakes you make. So, the next time your young athlete has a bad play, bad game, or receives a trophy for participating in a sport, keep it in context. Those are just very small things in the big picture of an athlete's life.

Developing Your Young Athletes

Parents often wonder what they can do to get their kids to become high quality athletes. First and foremost, it's important to understand and accept genetics (see article on this page titled, “Understanding Aptitude and How it Relates to the Single Sport Athlete”). In everything we do, we have an aptitude, and your child may have an aptitude of 8 in some things, and 3 in others. Your goal should be to get them to reach their level, not to impossibly get an 8 out of someone who's a five. Also understand that people rarely reach their aptitude, so if your aptitude is a five, it's hard to reach that five. Now that we agree we're all not going to be 10's in every aspect of life, we can move forward with things you can effect as a parent.
Exposure
If you want your kid to be good in sports (or anything for that matter), they need to be exposed to it. Have sporting equipment around the house, take it with you when you go to the park, watch sports on TV, and take them to sporting events. Having them attend a sports class one hour a week is probably not enough exposure. This would go for anything, music, art, reading, etc. If you don't do it at home, it becomes a much more difficult path. Hockey in the US is a great example of the importance of exposure. Most successful American born hockey players come from Minnesota, Michigan, Massachusetts, Wisconsin, etc. Does that mean athletes in the Southeastern part of the US aren't good enough athletes? Hardly. Those kids simply aren't exposed to hockey, so they never develop an interest in the sport.
Interest
Exposure leads to interest. To be clear, just because your kids are exposed to something often, does not necessarily mean they will develop an interest in it. It purely makes the chances much greater. When kids are interested in something, they ask questions about it, want to participate in it, and watch others do it. Basically, the kids get to the level of liking something. And many times when people like something, they want to be good at it.
Drive
When you enjoy an activity, you typically want to be good at it. Kids will practice on their own, play with siblings and friends, neighbors, and whoever else is willing to play with them so they can get better. Continue to encourage them and applaud their efforts, and do your best to never say no when they ask you to play. Sports programs hopefully teach kids to do things the right way, but it is the practice and efforts of the individual that will make the athlete successful. Most sports programs only get kids for 2-4 hours a week at best. The kids who are practicing on their own after that are the ones who have a greater chance to succeed. When I was learning how to play guitar, the book I was reading had an interesting comment. Essentially, it said playing guitar for two hours once a week wasn't as valuable as picking it up and playing it for 15 minutes a day. My thought is that can apply to everything, including sports. So, if you can get your athletes to play a sport for 15-20 minutes a day, it is more valuable than trying to go practice for two hours at once.
There are no guarantees you will have a five star athlete in your house, but this methodology will hopefully get the best out of your kids. Most importantly, don't lose site of the fact that while you are trying to build your child into athlete, scientist, musician, artist, actor, etc., you are developing a human being. So develop respect, compassion, manners, appreciation, etc., all the while.

Is the Youth Sports Trophy Culture Hurting Young Athletes?

In the last month, there has been a lot of talk about participation trophies and the supposed "everybody gets a trophy" culture. Professional football player James Harrison decided to send his son's participation trophies back which caused a lot of conversation. What we typically hear is that this "culture" is causing our athletes/children to become weaker and more entitled. Usually, it is a dad who grumbles, "we didn't all get trophies when I was a kid." Maybe, maybe not. What I think is getting missed in this conversation is, "who cares?"
There most certainly are tremendous athletes out there who received participation medals, or trophies or ribbons, yet they were somehow able to overcome this and excel in athletics. How is this possible? There are two reasons. The first one is that these awards, for the most part, satisfy a short term need of a young athlete. They feel they worked hard, and are proud of the recognition that they were on a team or involved in a sport. But, for most kids, this satisfaction is only short term. They don't sleep with that trophy for the next year (maybe a week), and they may put it on their shelf in their room, but they don't need to bring it everywhere they go. Most of these athletes don't stop playing sports because they received a trophy, in fact, some may continue playing because of it, and help increase their satisfaction of participating. Parents reward their kids in different ways, whether it be through a snack, time on a computer game, TV time, more play time, etc. These are all short term rewards as well, and we don't feel they are destroying our kids. And that's all a trophy is. A short term reward.
I am certain I received some sort of medals, trophies, and ribbons in youth athletics as a kid, but I don't recall receiving a single one of them. But for some reason, our generation believes we were mentally tougher and better than our kids' generation because we didn't get trophies. Have you seen some of the young athletes out there today? There are some phenomenal young athletes in this country, and in this neighborhood. Kids are working harder than they ever had to because of the knowledge we have on health and fitness, and how competitive the environment is. Kids are getting convinced by their parents to play one sport (see article below) at a young age just so they can potentially excel. And all the while, many of these great young athletes, who may end up being college athletes, receive participation awards.
This leads us to the second reason trophies don't matter, which is understanding the ineffectiveness of single variable parenting. Parents often focus too much on single variables instead of looking at the literally thousands of variables that will affect the outcome of their child, or in this discussion, young athletes. One of the easiest examples to site on this is whether or not you should physically discipline your children. Whenever this discussion comes to the forefront, people step forward and say, "my parents spanked me and I turned out great," and another group steps forward and says, "my parents didn't spank me and I turned out great." The truth is, there is no definitive answer on this either way. You could never have a long term study with a control group. So many other things go into how you turned out as a human being other than whether or not you were spanked. How much time did your parents spend with you? Did you feel loved? Did you have a strong support group of friends, teachers, coaches? What kind of neighborhood did you grow up in? And so on.
This concept applies to young athletes as well. Athletes succeed or don't succeed because of a large number of variables. Way down the list of success or lack of success would be whether an athlete received participation trophies or not. To me, when people focus on these single variables, it's laziness, or a lack of willingness to examine the big picture. Every day, parents have at least 200 decisions to make that may affect the outcome of their child or athlete. No one is going to get all of these right, if there even is a "right." The job as a parent is not do everything right, but to minimize the number of big mistakes you make. So, the next time your young athlete has a bad play, bad game, or receives a trophy for participating in a sport, keep it in context. Those are just very small things in the big picture of an athlete's life.

Understanding Aptitude and How it Relates to the Single Sport Athlete

People are born very similar. We have ten fingers, ten toes, two eyes, two ears, one nose, etc. But we also have obvious differences. These include things like height, skin color, eye color, hair color, facial features, etc. We also have differences the eye cannot easily detect. These include the nine types of intelligence such as spatial intelligence, music intelligence, logical-mathematical intelligence, interpersonal intelligence, spatial intelligence, and so on. Most people have difficulties understanding those who excel in fields such as Mozart, van Gogh, or Einstein. These individuals clearly had special gifts no one else had. And although people of genius or success in any field work hard, most understand they were born with unique gifts. To put it simply, I could work on music 18 hours a day and never come close to what Mozart could do in five minutes of effort. That's because Mozart had a much higher aptitude for music than I do.
People are born with an aptitude in every aspect of ability, whether it is math, art, music, etc. Most never reach their aptitude because of the amount of time and effort it takes. But, if we all put in the same effort in every area, we would NOT be equal. We have different aptitudes in different areas. And although these aptitudes are not recognizable by just looking at someone, most people understand it as fact.
One of the nine types of intelligence is bodily-kinesthetic intelligence, which essentially is our athletic ability. Everyone is born with athletic ability, but we are certainly not born equal. This is difficult for people to understand, however. If I told you all you needed to do to be taller, smarter, better looking, or more artistic is to work harder in these areas, you would scoff at its ridiculousness. But, for some reason, people generally believe that our aptitude in athleticism is different. That if we work hard, we can always do better. That if we spend more time on something in athletics, we are guaranteed success. However, this is the EXACT same as saying if we spent more time on music, art, or being more attractive we would be guaranteed success in these areas. It's simply not the case. In my life, if I had the best track coaches and access to the best training, work ethic, equipment, etc., I not only would never have competed with Usain Bolt, I never would have made a US regional final in the 100 meter dash. That's aptitude.
So, how does this apply to the current state of youth athletics? Despite several studies indicating that well-rounded athletes are more successful, parents continue to be pressured into having their kids focus on one sport at very young ages. Although more doctors, coaches, and experts are speaking against young, single-sport athletes, what is not being discussed is aptitude. Just like you, your kids have an athletic aptitude. They will absolutely improve the more they work at something, but only to their highest aptitude.
More and more parents tell me their child just plays baseball or lacrosse or football, or soccer, etc. And these are parents of 8, 9, and 10 year olds. They believe the best chance for their athlete to succeed is to focus on one sport. But this is not the case. As kids get older, aptitude begins to show more and more. Some kids who played just baseball, football, LAX, basketball, etc., will get beat out in junior high or high school by kids who either only played that sport seasonally, or in some cases, may not have played that sport at all. Those kids simply had a higher aptitude. For the most part, as kids get older, they get more coachable, and can learn more quickly. For that reason, coaches are often looking for aptitude when they build their teams. This is even more evident at the highest level of professional sports. We often hear of guys getting drafted into the NFL and NBA who are described as "raw talent" or players who have a "big upside." That's aptitude.
When parents understand aptitude and its application to sports, they may be more likely to encourage their athletes to play multiple sports. There are many benefits, short and long term, for kids to compete in several sports. The benefits of being a young single sport athlete, short and long term, are extremely limited. The only reason kids should stop playing any sport is through natural attrition, which is when the athlete determines they can no longer compete, they have another sport in the same season, or they simply no longer enjoy playing. It shouldn't be because they feel they can only compete if they play one sport. For better or for worse, our aptitude often dictates our success.

When it Comes to Youth Team Sports, Scoring is Overrated

With fantasy sports and several round the clock sports networks, it's easy to lose sight of how games are won. Fantasy sports teaches us only scoring is valuable. What we see today on sports networks are dunks, touchdowns, fantastic goals, and home runs. What we don't see are smart passes, great defense, consistent blocking and tackling, and bunting your teammate over when your team needs it. This is not a criticism of the sports networks. That's what people want to see. But due to the constant bombardment of these highlights, people lose sight of how games are won.
When I was in college, we had an All-American running back on our team named Bob Beatty. Of course, he scored several touchdowns, but he could have scored more. Often Bob would get tackled inside the five yard line, and we would hand the ball off to our big fullback who scored more touchdowns than anyone in the Iowa Conference that year, including Beatty. Beatty could have scored every one of those, and he probably wanted to. But, as teammates, no one ever questioned Beatty's value because he didn't have as many touchdowns. The team knew he was significantly more valuable than our fullback, as he gained more yards, was a great pass receiver, an excellent blocker, and a supportive teammate. Point being, as you get into high school, college, and pro, teammates are able to see value (or lack of) in each other that outsiders do not.
So I cringe when parents are talking about their young athletes and the first thing they discuss is how many touchdowns they scored, baskets they made, or goals they scored. Of course, that is bound to come up, and that is understandable. But, when kids hear their parents bragging and talking about points and goals, all that does is reinforce the fantasy and highlight mentality that scoring is everything. When I talk to my brother about his kids, I want to know how they played. Were they aggressive? Were they working hard? Are they getting better? Did they work well with their team? Are they enjoying playing? Of course I hear if they scored, but that is tertiary to several other things I want to know about their play.
There is absolutely value in scoring and I don't want to minimize that. The drive and effort it takes for an athlete to push themselves to get into the end zone, score a basket, or hit the puck into the net is extremely admirable. Just make sure your young athletes understand that winning at high levels is a team effort. And to be a part of a winning team, you need to do several things well. Not just the scoring.

Youth Sports: It's Not About the Coach

If you have kids in a "competitive" sports league or watched a youth game of a relative or family friend, you more than likely have seen an overzealous coach. It's the coach who's always yelling at players and referees. The coach who's not playing all the kids. The coach who bases his team's success strictly on wins. It's the coach proudly holding a trophy in the air along with the kids after a win. In general, it's the coach who feels they are one of the competitors. They are not.
Across the country, many of today's youth sports programs put way too much emphasis on winning, and this is reflected by the coaches. Coaches of youth programs should not have winning as their number one goal. Quite frankly, winning is easy if you are willing to take shortcuts, which is what is happening. There are a number of negative side effects to having a "win first" attitude.
The biggest problem is early age attrition. Coaches may decide not to play kids who have yet to peak. Many of these kids could end up quitting, either because sitting on the bench is not fun, or their parents feel they won't have future success and convince them to stop playing. It's not always clear how good an athlete will become when they are four to ten years old. Kids develop at different ages, and a coach and a program's goal should be to keep as many kids playing sports for as long as they can. Coaches and parents should never be the reason an athlete stops playing a sport. Athletes in a competitive environment are not going to have the exact same playing time or play all the positions, however, a coach should never completely shut down the athletes who have not quite developed. Coaches should spend just as much time coaching them as they do their star players, provided they are willing to listen.
Finally, parents and coaches need to keep things in perspective while their athletes are competing in youth sports. A main goal of a youth sports coach is to keep kids playing by creating a fun environment. Secondly, you are trying to teach them how to do things the right way, so when they practice, they continue to improve, and put themselves in position to be successful when they get older. Never in high school or college did a coach base my playing time on how good I was when I was nine. Although winning is fun for the athletes, parents, and coaches, understand that winning games when you are eight doesn't mean a whole lot. It's absolutely okay to put kids in a competitive environment where the kids are trying to win. Just make sure the team/league is focused on the kids. Because it's not about the coach.
Stapleton All Sports is interested in attracting energetic, athletic coaches to work with kids ages 4-10. If interested in applying, contact Gabe Hurley at stapletonallsports@gmail.com or 720.985.6642.