Your Kid’s Not Going Pro

A Youth Sports Blog

Despite recession, the kids' games go on

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Definition of  a city in trouble: people come to your town to do pieces where they express amazement your kids are still playing youth sports and doing things besides foraging through trash bins for sustenance.

ESPN’s Outside the Lines is doing this in Janesville and Beliot, Wisc., hit hard by industrial cutbacks, including reports by Mark Fainaru-Wada, he of Barry Bonds-BALCO-“Game of Shadows” fame, on Beloit youth baseball and the effort to raise money for a Janesville youth baseball complex.

I can’t be too flip about this idea and effort. I did the same a month ago in Elkhart, Ind., for MSNBC.com’s “The Elkhart Project,” which is devoted to a city that, thanks to the RV industry hitting a brick wall in this economy, went from 5 percent to nearly 20 percent unemployment in about six months. My story, I am told, is due to come this week, and it will get into why youth sports seems to be unaffected by the recession — why, in fact, it seems to be strenghtening kids’ sports — but also why that might not be able to last in some particularly hard-hit areas, no matter how much the parents try.

Like I’m sure the ESPN folks discovered in southern Wisconsin, the resolve of the people in Elkhart against a stunning economic turnaround is inspiring. You come to realize that despite the nuttiness you hear so often about sports parenting, the vast, vast majority of parents look at sports at something that can be a positive influence on their kids for whatever they do in life — with the full understanding what they will do is not going to be sports. It explains why youth sports is one of the last things a family will give up when times are tight.

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