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7/7/19blog post

is Norway a model of youth sports?

Since Norway dominated the 2018 Winter Olympics with a record-setting 39 medals, this country of only 5.4 million people has been the object of intense scrutiny. What is the secret to their athletic success?

The HBO program Real Sports gave us some insights. They coach and care for their young athletes in exactly the opposite ways that are done in the United States.

The Norwegian approach seems radical. They think that sports should be enjoyable and available to all youngsters. They are the only country in the world that regulates athletics by a Children’s Rights in Sports. The expenses for team sports are minimal, with a focus on fun and friendship.  Teams are prohibited from keeping score or ranking athletes before kids are twelve years of age.

The Norwegians interviewed by Real Sports argued that their inclusive approach maintains a high rate of engagement because the children are enjoying the activities, playing with friends and just being kids. Since youngsters develop physically and emotionally at such different rates, it’s pointless to sort kids out before their teen years.

The approach changes when the kids enter adolescence, where talent and motivation lead to intense training as Norway tries to dominate numerous winter and summer sports.

I saw this HBO program at the same time that I read about a fight that broke out among parents at a baseball game for seven-year-old kids. The parents were upset at the umpire, who just happened to be a 13-year-old kid. Something is terribly wrong.

Bad parents and destructive capitalism are damaging youth sports. Parents are taking the fun out of athletics, which should be about getting exercise, being with friends, learning a few skills, being silly, and getting along with other people. It’s uncomfortable to attend youth sporting events, as parents act in ways that are stupid and harmful to their kids.

The development of select teams at an early age is another bad trend hurting our children. Parents are hiring specialists to coach their kids, traveling on weekends to participate in tournaments, and wasting money on high-tech equipment. Youth sports are now a multibillion-dollar industry.  This is about making profits at the expense of our kids’ physical and emotional health. Parents are manipulated into believing that early training and specialization result in a higher likelihood of becoming an elite athlete, whereas burnout is the more frequent consequence.

It’s hard to confront this culture of destructive competition. Don’t be seduced by the pseudo-experts who try to manipulate you into wasting your time and money. Allow your child to enjoy sports. As they enter their teen years, let their talent and interests dictate their athletic focus.