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Overzealous Parents, Coaches Take the Fun From Kids' Sports
Date:10/13/2011

By Jenifer Goodwin
HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, Oct. 13 (HealthDay News) -- Every afternoon and weekend, children in uniform and parents toting sports gear, water bottles and lawn chairs converge on America's fields for soccer, baseball and football games.

Pretty much everyone agrees that the nation's kids are in dire need of more physical activity and that organized sports can help achieve that. Yet, some experts warn that adult attitudes about winning and competition are taking the fun out of youth sports, and driving too many kids to drop out too soon.

Though an estimated 30 million children played on youth league teams last year, many kids no longer participate when they reach middle and high school, experts say. That not only puts kids at risk of gaining weight and becoming sedentary adults, but robs them of one of the great joys of living: movement.

"If parents would just relax a little bit, let the child be a child, and not try to make that child be an adult, you are going to give them the gift of moving for life," said Sandra Sims, an associate professor in the human studies department at University of Alabama Birmingham, who spent two decades as a middle and high school coach and physical education teacher.

So what's the explanation for kids' loss of interest?

Some blame goes to overzealous parents who scream at referees and pressure kids to work toward a college scholarship before they've learned to tie their own cleats, experts say.

But even more common issues, they say, are poor coaching, societal attitudes that encourage winning at all costs and a push to have children specialize in one sport too soon.

"Everything that you read states students are leaving because it's not fun anymore. The push seems to be, 'Let's get them going real early in one sport.' For a small majority of students, that kid that is a Tiger Woods or the elite athlete, that works. But it doesn't work for
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