The Really Ugly Side of Competitive Sports

It’s an ugly trend happening throughout youth sports. Overly competitive parents are withholding information from other moms and dads around them, all in the hopes of gaining an advantage for their own child.

Ask silly as it may seem, it’s really happening. Parents purposefully do not share opportunities, like tryouts, camps, training sessions and tournaments. And it may be happening around you – without your knowledge.

When it Hit Me

Here’s when I realized it was happening to my child and me. A few years ago, (my son was a fifth grader at the time) he wanted to explore playing on a travel basketball team. Back then, sports information wasn’t as readily available online as it is today, so I was having trouble finding the right opportunity for my son.

So I turned to a father in our community whose son was a few years older and played select basketball. I felt sure he’d have some great suggestions. But, as I asked him how to get started in AAU Basketball, he just wasn’t as helpful as I had expected. I got polite answers – but nothing really useful. He seemed to sidestep my questions. I chalked it up to him being in a hurry and having other things on his mind.

However, a few weeks later, I ran into the same dad again. This time I pressed a little more, explaining that I was still having difficulties finding answers about teams, tryout dates and other necessary information. To my surprise, I was met again with the same, canned responses.

It finally became clear: he was withholding information. Why? In this case, I am still not sure. Our kids were not the same age, so they weren’t competing for the same opportunities. But for whatever reason, this was a zero-sum game to him.

Ditch, Skirt and Run

Pitch, Hit & Run is a decades old skills competition hosted by Major League Baseball. It’s open to all boys and girls ages 7 to 14. Players begin at the local level, then try to advance to sectionals, team championships and then ultimately to a national finals held at the MLB All-Star Game.

I remember speaking to a baseball dad a few years back, who regularly entered his son into the competition, but kept quiet about it so none of his sons’ teammates or other friends would know to enter. “Why create more competition?” he asked. That sure felt wrong. But then, what am I to do? A mom I know had a great idea I can’t help but admire.

The Good Sported Mom

A few months ago, a friend of mine was frustrated because she was running into the same type of situation, only this time it involved lacrosse.

“Every year, every season, I learn more about this sport,” she said. “New leagues, new teams, new camps and more. I try to share with those around me so all of our kids can get better. Sadly, it seems that is rare. Lots of parents I know hold back info so that there is less competition for their own kid. It’s just not fair.”

In one particular incident, she didn’t know about a tryout for a new club team until a fellow parent posted an “I’m so proud of my kid” story on Facebook.

Her frustration has inspired action. She has proactively created a website and a Twitter account to share information throughout her region with other parents. She hopes it will help even the playing field for all kids and promote a more friendly sense of sportsmanship among parents. That’s just the kind of team spirit I want my kid to learn from youth sports. A big thanks to her for working to turn this trend around. And from one sports parent to another, I’d say she’s knocking it out of the park.

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