“Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing. ” A quote made famous by NFL head coach Vince Lombardi winner of the first two Super Bowls ever played, but are these words the motto we should subject our young athletes too? In a Research Digest article titled “Youth Sports In America: an Overview” the Presidents Council On Fitness & Sports talks about the benefits of organized sports. Also in Sports In Contemporary Society Authors: Joan Ryan, Buzz Bissinger, and Mark Hyman write about their encounters with eating disorders, mental and physical abuse in organized sports for youth.
Unfortunately the harm caused to youth by organized sports is greater than its benefits. According to “Youth Sports In America: An Overview” sports are an excellent opportunity for social development. The Article states that, “…many of the social and moral requirements for sports parallel to how individuals must function in a law-abiding society” (7). This statement is true in theory, listening to your coaches and following orders at practice can teach you to follow the law and model how to act with say a supervisor, yet this is all assuming your coach teaches you how with more then an agenda to simply win at all cost.
Although sports are thought to teach moral values “Youth Sports In America: An Overview” states this, “Sports themselves are not morel or immoral…however the potential does exist to enhance moral development…”(7). This tells us that sports its self is neutral, the people are in control of practice are the ones who install the morals that come with the Carrillo 2 Organized sports. If the people who are in charge of organizing our sports for our youth only want to win at all cost, physical health and integrity will slowly disappear in our youth. In “Harm to Your Children in Youth Sports” by Mark Hyman we see how the oaches and parent in youth organized sports are actually causing physical harm to their children. Hyman interviews different young athletes about there bad experiences with sports. We see evidence of this when Hyman interviews Kimiko Hirai, a member of the 2004 Olympic dive team, after being told to “not get fat”(113) by her coach “she purged almost everything. Her weight plunged from 130 to 100”(113). Here we see how much influence a coaches words may have, this young girl has developed an eating disorder and is putting her health in danger cutting weight because fat divers do not win.
More so we see how the actions of a coach or parent can cause mental abuse. This is more evident in another of Hymans interviews about a young softball player who had a father that pushed too hard, “As he left the field that one day, her brooding father swung a metal bat at a wooden post ‘with every it of force in his body’ Turning to his daughter he said, ‘that’s what I feel like doin to you”(112). Sadly one of the main reason sports can be so harmful is due to the parents and coaches of the children.
This young athlete will never be the same after her father basically said he feels like killing his daughter because of softball. Also we see how wrestler subject them self to cutting weight as well, know if they catch a smaller weight class they have and edge to win: One of those who died, Jeffrey Reese, a junior at the University of Michigan, had set his goal of losing twenty-one pounds in four days. To accomplish it, he put him self through pure torture. Reese limited his diet to fruit and water-based foods. All While, he exercised relentlessly and insanely.
Riding a stationary bicycle in a sauna Carrillo 3 while wearing a rubber suit. At that moment Reese’s heart stops(114). Torture, he put himself through torture for a sport that bottom line should be fun. This way of training to cut weight is all to common in sports like wrestling and in many case is encouraged by coaches. These children and young adults are being pressured to do what it takes to win, but don’t realize the cost is much greater than the reward. Furthermore we see in “Bench The Parents” by Buzz Bissinger how the parents in sports can instill bad character and bad morals in our youth.
Bissinger talks about situations where parents or coaches that are parents push their kids to far. For example Bissinger writes, “Take the T-ball coach in Dunbar, Penn. , who the same year paid one of his own players $25 to hit autistic teammate in the head with a baseball so he would not have to use him during the game”(109). This passage shows how cold and heartless a coach can be, but lets not only think about the autistic child who was hit with the ball but what about the child who threw the ball? How will he grow up, will he grow up mad at him self for what he did?
Or will he grow up thinking he must step on anyone he needs to win, either way actions like these stay with the children involved causing them to grief or bad morals. Bissinger also writes “Take the 13-year-old who three years ago killed a 15-year-old player with a bat in a pony league baseball game in Palmdale, Calif. , because the 15-year-old had apparently been teased and taunted him”(109). Sports are pushing these children not only past rational thought but beyond an act that a 13-year-old should be capable of. In a game that is suppose to be fun and benefit children in social interaction, is causing them to harm one another.
More so we see the pressures of sports when youth compete on a world stage. In Carrillo 4 “Female Gymnasts and Ice Skaters The Dark Side” author Joan Ryan focus on the risk and dangers that are alarming in women’s gymnastics and figure skating. Ryan discovers that most of these young stars [girls ages thirteen to early twenties] are put under pressures from their parents this is evident here “An elite gymnast or figure skater knows that she takes more then her own ambitions into a competitions. Her parents have invested hundreds of dollars in her training, sometimes hundreds of thousands”(104).
These athletes do not only carry the stress of there own ambitions but those of there parents, one can only imagine the stress you must feel know your parents have invested so much money not just hoping but expecting you to win. The stress is enough to drive a teenager insane. We see again the burden these children carry when Ryan talks about her interview with seventeen-year-old Tiffany Chin competed in the 1988 Olympics, “Chin recalled recently that when she did win, ‘ I didn’t feel happiness. I felt relief. Which was like disappointing” (103).
In the same manner we see how these sports no longer become a happiness for competition but a relief when absent failure. The stress these young women go threw will not only cause mental but physical harm as well. As if the stress was not enough harm to these young women Ryan finds that inflict harm to themselves which is not only the norm in these sports but encouraged by trainers. Ryan makes that clear in this passage “To survive in the sport, they beat back puberty, desperate to stay small and thin, refusing to let their bodies grow up”(103).
These young women make extreme sacrifices not to be great, but just to survive just to get by in the sport. These young girls bodies are at risk. Ryan also discover that in the past ten years research has showed “…young female athletes who didn’t menstruate have bone density of postmenopausal in there fifties, sixties, and seventies”(104). It does not make sense that the athletes who train over forty hours a week Carrillo 5 and pound there bodies to the ground while on the verge of osteoporosis. With these girls it only a matter of time before they are severely injured.
Ultimately the benefits of sports do not out weigh the dangers of organized sports. Ironically the reason organized sports is causing harm, is due to the people who organize them. The morals and social structure sports are suppose to install are destroyed by coaches pushing students to hard for a victory. The youth is taught winning is worth starving themselves, training themselves to death literally. Not to mention all the mental damage that comes with the physical punishment there bodies are forced through by their coaches and parents. This writer would like to see a day where sports are play simply for the love of the game.
Bissinger, Buzz. “Bench the Parents. ” Eitzen 108-111. Eitzen, Stanley D, ed. Sports In Contemporary Society. London: Paradigm Publishers. 2012. Print. Hyman, Mark. “Harm to Children In Youth Sports. ” Eitzen 112-115. Ryan, Joan. “Female Gymnast and Ice Skaters The Dark Side. ” Eitzen 101-107. Seefeldt, Vern D. “Youth Sports In America: An Overview. ” Education Recources Information