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Are Youth Sports Too Intense?

Courtesy of family

Ten-year-old Rogan Miller spends nearly all of his free time playing basketball. Just about every day after school, Rogan practices at the gym near his home in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. He spends hours shooting three-pointers, working on his defense, and copying the moves of his favorite professional players. On weekends, he sometimes travels hours to compete in tournaments and plays as many as five games. One website lists Rogan as the 24th-best basketball player in the U.S. among fifth-graders.

“I know one day if I keep practicing,” says Rogan, “I can make it to the NBA.”

Rogan is one of countless young athletes across the U.S. who dream of one day going pro. Many kids train and compete year-round in sports such as soccer, gymnastics, and tennis.

However, not everyone thinks all that intense competition is a good idea. Some people say it puts too much pressure on kids and takes the fun out of playing.

Here are two views about youth sports.

Yes! Sports should be about having fun.

Youth sports can seem like a full-time job for many kids. Weekends and school breaks often revolve around traveling to faraway tournaments. That can mean giving up time with friends and family. Being so focused on one sport forces many young athletes to give up their hobbies and leaves them with little time to explore other interests.

Also, training to become a star athlete can be expensive. Parents pay for their kids to join top travel teams and hire personal coaches. Many people worry that kids and their parents are setting unrealistic goals.

The chances of playing a sport professionally are extremely slim.

Many young athletes end up pushing themselves too hard and get injured. Others burn out from all the pressure. In fact, 7 out of 10 kids who play organized sports quit by age 13, according to the National Alliance for Youth Sports.

“When playing sports becomes a job or an obligation, kids lose interest,” says Mark Hyman, a professor at George Washington University who has written three books about youth sports.

No! There’s nothing wrong with working hard to reach your goals.

Many people argue that playing sports is similar to playing piano, chess, or anything else: To be your best, you must practice. They point out that top athletes like Serena Williams began serious training at a young age. Many kids know that facing the best competition often requires traveling to tournaments. They say it’s also a great way to bond with teammates and meet kids from other states.

In addition, a lot of parents say they’d rather see their kids playing sports than spending their free time on their phones or playing video games. They say as long as kids are having fun and not being pushed too hard, where’s the harm?

“I love the game,” Rogan says. “It doesn’t feel like work.”

Plus, kids who are serious about sports learn the importance of hard work and determination, which can help them succeed as adults—and not just in sports.

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