Steinberg: All about the kids

Steinberg Says

June 01, 2011|By Leigh Steinberg, Daily Pilot

When my daughter Katie was 10, her Newport Beach AYSO team made it to the playoffs and they lost. She was crying on the field and my heart dropped and I rushed out to console her.

Katie looked at me and said, "Daddy, I'm not crying because we lost. I'm crying because I won't get to see my friends on the team as much."

It started me thinking about the difference in motivation and perception between parents and their children in youth sports. It's been reported 70% of children quit organized youth sports by age 13 and much of it has to do with the fun being removed by Type A parenting and coaching.


My three children spent a combined 22 years in AYSO in Corona del Mar, and many more in Newport Beach Little League, youth basketball and football. I saw a majority of coaches who were talented and giving, and I saw parents who were incredibly supportive.

I also saw some outrageous behavior by parents and coaches. I have decided to write a book, "The Golden Goal," on parenting youth athletes. The book is set to be published in the fall.

When I saw friends of mine charge out of the stands or coaching boxes to yell at kids, umpires or coaches, I knew it was time to discuss these issues. It is supposed to be about the kids.

Written and performance tests are not required to parent a youth athlete. No parenting license is required. But enormous amounts of time and focus go into participation in youth sports and the parenting it requires in a community like ours.

Soccer is usually the first experience a child has in organized sports and comparing his or her talents to other children. It can be a time of extraordinary empowerment. Sports can emphasize important fundamental values like self-respect, self-discipline, teamwork, resilience, perseverance and courage. But it can also be a discouraging time which crushes their self esteem. And the perception of someone as untalented and a loser can spread into teasing and bad treatment at school.

Children model adult behavior: when parents scream at coaches and referees and at their children, that is a powerful example. When coaches treat the composition of their teams with more scouting and maneuvering than NFL teams, and put so much pressure on kids to win, that is another.

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