The Costs (Financial and Emotional) of Youth Sports

The big sports story in Boston this week is of course the World Series. But it's also significant that this week it's not Boston-based parents who are the subject of the bad sports parent story making national headlines. As I've written about before in Boston Magazine, youth sports in Massachusetts tend to be extremely competitive and lead to some ill-behavior. Boston Sports Parents by Zohar Lazar for Boston Magazine

In the tournament showdown in the piece hockey parents took the "prize," so it's no surprise that when a parent got in a fight at a youth sporting event and actually punched a CHILD, it was at a hockey game. A 14-year-old was punched in the face by a 44-year-old chiropractor in Palm Beach County, FL. Dr. Matthew Supran was arrested after also pounding the child's head into the boards. It must be noted that Palm Beach is an affluent area and Supran is obviously educated-- showing that the intense competitive youth culture impacts people even at the higher ends of the class structure.

Earlier this month an article I wrote for The Atlantic on the history of on competitive youth sports helped inspire this NYT's Room for Debate, which provoked some thoughtful responses and comments on how to balance these activities for kids. Of course the focus should be on kids, and not parents. A mix of fun and seriousness seems to be the right mix, but it's hard to get that exactly right.

And, of course, participation in these activities isn't free-- not even close. Last weekend NBC Nightly News did a segment on two baseball playing brothers at IMG Academies and how much their parents pay each year (close to six-figures for *each* of them). As you'll see around 1:43 of this clip, I make an appearance emphasizing how important it is to not just focus on one activity for the health of your child, by which I mean both physically and psychologically.

While this post may seem a bit negative, it is important to remember that there are also many benefits to participation in youth sports, as I wrote about last week for The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's Human Capital blog (a Foundation that has funded parts of my research). In fact I emphasize that the impact of participation can be so great that we need to work to ensure that *all* children have access to the skills and lessons youth sports help develop, and not just the kids whose parents can invest six-figures and who live in Palm Beach...

Parenting, Pageantry, and Politics

The past month or so has been pretty crazy in the Levey Friedman household-- death, life, illness(es), first teeth, a hurricane and a nor'easter, Halloween, an election, the list goes on.  Through it all I've attempted to keep writing, but the priority has been parenting the Little Man... especially after we lost our childcare in the midst of everything else! Being a SAHM for a few weeks meant my child got to eat Chicken McNuggets for the first time (which he obviously loved; he also napped better than ever after eating them, so McDonald's clearly knows what they are doing).  I attempted to not feel guilty about this, and other things during this time, with varying degrees of success.

Having written about parenting for years, parenting my own child has certainly added a new dimension to my work, as I knew it would. And just this week I published my first ever parenting essay over on Kveller's Raising Kvell blog.  You'll see that it's about whether or not Little Man should be thinking about competition at 8-months-old.  [You will also note that I am not the woman pictured swimming. As I say to the husband each week, "Someone would have to pay me a lot of money these days to get me into a bathing suit." Of course, if you're that person, feel free to call or email me.]

In last month's Boston Magazine I wrote about some hyper-competitive sports parents in New England, a group which often makes national headlines for their misbehavior.  Swimming parents did make the tournament, but didn't advance far, which in this case is a good thing.  It seems like I won't be part of that group, although clearly I can't speak for the aforementioned husband.  Yesterday I was on NECN's The Morning Show talking about this issue (see below) and speculating about why these stories often come out of the Boston area.

(In the past month I've recently addressed some other parenting issues, from a sociological perspective, on The Morning Show including parents using social media to discipline their children and parents trying to ban yoga from their children's elementary school.)

Parenting a competitive child does not come cheap, as this recent slideshow that features my research reveals, but many parents consider it worth the effort.  Parents are also starting to "afterschool" their kids, as this new, interesting article reveals; note that I'm quoted here as saying, "They want to make sure their kids stay at the top of their class," but in general parents just want to try to be sure their kids "stay at the top."

As I've learned over the years people can stay at the top in a variety of fields.  It can be in parenting, swimming, hockey, football, chess, soccer, dance, school, and, yes, beauty pageants.  Competition abounds in our society.  As a follow-up to my two pieces earlier this year on beauty queen political candidates-- women looking to conquer both pageants and politics-- I posted on The Hill this week with an update on how the beauties fared in their elections (spoiler: one won!).

Because I was home with him I got to take the Little Man to see democracy in action for the first time.  But he wouldn't tell which beauty queen politician he would have voted for... Guess I'll have to wait until he can talk to find out!