Government Regulation of Youth Sports: Is it Time???

EL SEGUNDO, CA - JULY 11:  David Beckham plays a 20 minutes match with kids during an event with Zinedine Zidane , ADIDAS, MLS W.O.R.K.S. and Fieldturf to kick off Footprint Fields Community Program at the Campus El Segundo Athletic Fields on July 11, 2009 in El Segundo, California.  (Photo by Robert Laberge/Getty Images for ADIDAS)

A recent article at Channel 2, Ohio considers regulating youth sports, reported that the state of Ohio, and its athletic officials, believe it's time for the regulation of outside school youth sports. Their thoughts center on youth sports having grown into a "monster," a "$5 billion... industry" (The Columbus Dispatch), bringing with it issues that are not in the best interest of young athletes.

It is their contention:

"'We have done a disservice to our children and their families, because we have allowed the structure to grow into what it is,'" an opinion based on a five-part article published last year in The Columbus Dispatch where conclusions were drawn that "largely unregulated sports programs are pushing some children too hard and pressuring families to spend big money traveling the country for games, specialized training and the pursuit of elusive college scholarships."

I can attest to this traveling expense as my two daughters, both who played club sports, not only traveled to our U.S. Coasts to compete, but one who traveled all the way to Russia and the Dominican Republic. Were they great experiences for my kids? Yes. Were they of complete necessity? Hmm, not exactly sure about that.

The Athletic Director at Ohio State University, Gene Smith, chimes in with his opinion as he states:

"'We have had all these cottage industries pop up and convince families they have to fly to Connecticut or go to Vegas to compete against the best. I think it's a flawed system.'"

Jason Woods, left, and Casey Copeland, both 5, toss their hats in the air during Opening Day ceremonies for the Tustin Western Little League at Hewes Intermediate School Saturday...///ADDITIONAL INFO: llopeningday.0222.kjs1.jpg --- Photo by Kevin Sullivan, The Orange County Register -- 2/21/'s opening day for a couple of the local little leagues. we go to tustin western which is celebrating it's 50th anniversary. 45 teams ages 4-14. Contact will be there if you need more info for cutlines, etc. There will be a pancake breakfrast from 8 to 10:30, games begin at noon and opening ceremonies at 10:30..Photographed Saturday February 21, 2009 Photo via Newscom

Of course, there are always two sides to an issue. Jim Sturm (Mid-Ohio Select Soccer League president) doesn't believe there is any "need for a uniform set of standards in youth sports." He is quoted as saying, "'I don't see an overarching need for that,'" and "'That very well may be a proverbial solution in search of a problem.'"

Such a conundrum we have here. On the one hand, our youth sports culture does seem to be moving in a less than positive direction. "Winning at all costs" attitudes and a pervasive loss of perspective in sports is becoming more prevalent. And, with all the money involved, it is not likely too many club owners will want to see government controls dictating what they can and cannot do as owners; something that could, quite possibly, limit ways that they attract business and increase profits.

However, using government intervention and control to fix a problem does not always turn out to be the best answer. It does tend to get overblown, expensive (offices, agencies, etc.), and, in this case, put some limits on one's "freedom of choice." As it stands now, in our current system, parents (and their kids) can choose to not participate for outside clubs that place a high priority on concepts they do not believe in. There are other options presently available.

Government regulation of youth sports, an interesting dilemma. I'm not exactly sure where I stand on this one, how about you???

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