Executive Director, Dave Archers Goal:
Together Let's Take Back The Game
Linda Flanagan and Take Back the Game
Flanagan, a journalist, coach, and parent, is dedicated in her efforts to uncovering the issues in the youth sports industry and offering possible remedies that parents, coaches, and other dedicated individuals can draw on to 'Take Back The Game'
"We need to return youth sports to the kids who play. Offer more to those who want them. And then politely get out of the way"
Together, we can take back the game so that youth sports are run in a way that centers around what's truly important -- fun, friendships, and growth. If this is something you would like to get involved in fill out the form below or get in touch with Dave Archer
Behind The Book
Flanagan draws on her experience as a coach and a parent, along with research to see the national obsession that has:
- compelled kids to specialize year-round in one sport;
- increased the risk of both physical injury and mental health problems;
- encouraged egregious behavior by coaches and parents;
- undermined family life; and
- reduced access to sports for low-income families
Take Back The Game is split into 3 parts
I - How The Game Changed When We Weren't Looking
II - Paradoxes of Youth Sports Today
III - Taking Back The Game
Part I is about the many changes the sports world has undergone, which occurred without much protest. Kids have become 'specialized' in a single sport instead of balancing their time by trying out multiple sports. This then has created a boom in organizations like AAU. Flanagan discusses all the expenses that go into playing a sport and how this colossal factor of money leaves many kids out from playing. Additionally, she reviews how players' success in a sport becomes a source of existential fulfillment for parents and the problems surrounding that. Furthermore, she acknowledges that youth sports now have a clear purpose, a transactional one where kids solely play with the goal of getting into college and recieving a scholarship
Part II involves the "paradoxes" surrounding youth sports today. While many believe that involvement in sports will translate to good character and valuable lessons, many other factors are at work to make this true, and in some circumstances in which there are unfavorable conditions, sports can do more harm than good to athletes' morals and ethics. Many parents work tirelessly to support their athletes. However, this support is only sometimes something that's demonstrating the importance of having a love for the game and an appreciation for fitness. Instead, there is a focus on winning, success, and meeting high standards. And as Flanagan portrays, in this quest to 'support' a child's athletic skills, the family unit is often sacrificed - leaving a "loss of vacation time, family dinners, and opportunities for connection." Flanagan also touches on the idea that we believe sports to only have benefits for the mind and body. However, the glorification of winning has led to athletes being overtrained, injured to the point of no return, mentally and emotionally drained, and utterly exhausted. The mindset we have surrounding sports has compromised health benefits for kids. While trust should be given to those in a coaching position - there has been some trouble with coaches that needs to be resolved. These issues involve unqualified individuals taking on the role, coaches who bully and mislabel it as 'tough love,' a variety of abuse, and the lack of women in coaching positions. Finally, Flanagan discusses how the fixation on winning has canceled out the important bonds that are built by being a part of a team. She leaves us with a captivating quote - "The defining features of kids' athletics today--the money, the intensity, the specter of college--have disrupted the natural bonds that grow when children and teenagers strive to compete together. For when the stakes seem so high, as they do to many families now, the pretense about self-sacrifice and teamwork evaporates, and it's an ugly race to the winner's circle."
In Part III Flanagan unfolds some potential changes that could be made in the 'youth sports ecosystem' - she devotes a chapter for the things parents can do, how coaches can help, and models that will work in the effort to taking back the game