Columbus Dispatch Series Reveals Major Issues with Youth Sports

The Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch has poured significant resources into a series of stories that reveal the pressures of little league/youth league sports outside of school. High school athletics are regulated more heavily, but kids often participate outside of school to increase their skills and play year-round.

The Dispatch started with a survey of 1,000 high school students and asked them about their youth sports experiences. In a question about parents, the survey directed the young athletes to provide answers about parents as a group and not simply about their own parents.

While more than half of the kids called parents "supportive," almost one in 10 chose the word "embarrassing," and 17 percent said they felt too much pressure from parents. (See the story from the Dispatch series about high-pressure parents and coaches.)

Close to four in 10 young athletes said in the survey that they had sustained an injury that was severe enough to require medical treatment. (See the story from the Dispatch series about kids and sports injuries.)

The Dispatch found that "earning a college scholarship" was one of the top two reasons that students play sports outside of school. But the chances of landing a scholarship are small:

"A Dispatch survey of more than 1,000 area high-school students last fall showed that earning a college scholarship was among the top two motivating forces for playing youth sports outside of school.

"Parents and children are tempted to mine for some of the nearly $2 billion in scholarship money available in men's and women's collegiate athletics. But for most, it's fool's gold.

"The NCAA says that less than 4 percent of the 7.5 million participants in high-school sports in the U.S. will receive full or partial athletic scholarships to college.

" 'It's like buying a lottery ticket,' said Sandy Baum, an economics professor at Skidmore College in Saratoga, N.Y., and an expert on financial aid."

This week, CNN reported:

"More and more children and teenagers are suffering traumatic brain injuries while playing basketball, according to a study published Monday in the journal Pediatrics.

"Researchers examined emergency room visits of people under the age of 20 who were treated for basketball related injuries between 1997 and 2007 and found the number of traumatic brain injuries shot up by 70%.

"Overall the proportion for traumatic brain injury doubled for boys and tripled for girls, said senior study author Dr. Laura B. McKenzie."

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    Al Tompkins

    Al Tompkins is The Poynter Institute’s senior faculty for broadcasting and online. He has taught thousands of journalists, journalism students and educators in newsrooms around the world.


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