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    January 2, 2015

    The Importance of Free Play in Youth Sports

    By Keith Van Horn

    This is the second of the three part Don't Drink the Kool Aid Series I am running this December. My intention for running the series is to provide parents with facts regarding three big issues in youth sports so they can make fact based, informed decisions about their families participation.





    Below are the topics I will be covering in the series:

    Last fall, I drove through a great neighborhood on a beautiful Saturday afternoon in Littleton, Colorado. 78 degrees.  Sunny.  The weather was probably not all that different from where I grew up outside of Los Angeles.  I pass the local park.  Beautiful trees.  New playground equipment.  Impeccable grass.  I think to myself, "I wish the grass at my house looked that nice."  Two great basketball courts.  Empty.  In fact, the entire park is empty.  I pass two other parks on my way home.  One has an adult Mexican organized soccer league game going on while their kids play on the playground equipment.  The other park is empty like the first with a basketball court that looks like it has never been used.

    That evening, to coach my daughter's basketball team in a tournament, I go to the local youth basketball complex which consists of 6 professional courts, bleachers that sit around 500 people, and gym floors that squeak.  You know, the get down and play some gritty defense squeak.  I love that squeak.  Two of my favorite sounds in the world are the swish of a basketball and new Nikes squeaking on a gym floor.  The complex is packed.  Parents and families are paying $5 each for admission, to watch 5th grade girls basketball.  Madness.  The tournament has been going on all day, and I think to myself, "This is why the parks are empty."

    We, and I mean we, me, myself and I, De La Soul, parents, coaches and youth sports organizations have created an environment in youth athletics that is increasingly geared towards meeting adult objectives. Win.  I'll pay you $100 an hour if you coach my kid to be great.  Make a living running youth tournaments. Get the investor a return on the youth sports facility complex they funded.  Gotta get $35 an hour, per court, at eight hours per day just to keep the lights on.  I can go on and on and on.  We need to change this. In this environment, kids can't just go to the park and play.  No time to beat dad in soccer in the backyard. They have a soccer game Saturday morning, and a basketball tournament in the afternoon.  Same on Sunday.  But is this system designed to meet adult objectives really best for kids and their development or do we need to step back and let them play a little more?

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    Item Reviewed: The Importance of Free Play in Youth Sports Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Adam Wedlake
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