Your Kid’s Not Going Pro

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Posts Tagged ‘youth sports funding

American youth sports system: The root of all evil

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It’s rare you see a newspaper editorial that wraps up all the ills of the youth sports-industrial complex at once, blaming it for poor athlete development, obesity, classism and minivan windows caked with messages like “Go Lightning! Katie #12! Whoooo!”

The Mercury News of San Jose, Calif., uses the recently concluded World Cup to conclude that the way youth sports is run in the USA sucks soccer balls.

The burst of excitement when it seemed the United States might have a chance to get to the World Cup final this year has led to heightened hopes that we’ll make it someday. But without a revolution in how we deal with youth sports, it’s unlikely to happen.

During today’s game between Spain and the Netherlands, on too many playgrounds across America, the soccer goals will be locked up — available only to children whose parents have the money and the inclination to pay for them to play.

Unregulated private clubs are increasingly dominating access to American youth sports. Parents now spend more than $4 billion every year for private sports training for their children, with kids from less wealthy or less sports-inclined families denied equal opportunity to develop their talents.

This is not the way to develop world-class teams in sports like soccer, when in most of the world even the poorest kids grow up kicking a ball around. More important, an over-reliance on pay-to-play sports is not in the best interest of children’s overall development.

I can give you 4 billion reasons why pay-to-play isn’t going to change. It’s not just the athletic companies, travel league organizers, concession stand suppliers and minivan-window marker manufacturers that don’t want to see things change. The problem is that no matter how much you try to equalize things, parents are more than willing to pay big bucks to gain an advantage for their children. I’m not sure how you stop that. “Hey, parents! [Finger wags.] You stop doing what you think is best for your kid!”

The editorial notes that the only sport in which the United States is a consistent world power is basketball, because of “players who primarily develop their skills on public courts, playing pickup games after school and on weekends.” I hate to break this to the Mercury News editorial board, but has it ever heard of AAU ball? Of course, poor kids often only get an opportunity there because they’ve shown some incredible amount of talent and physical prowess early, and some sugar daddy wants to cash in once the first pro contract is signed.

However, I, along with the Mercury News editorial board, would like to think all hope is not lost in giving all kids an equal chance of at least participating in sports, regardless of income, particularly as cash-strapped schools, cities and parks make cuts or ras

America needs a national debate about the direction of youth sports. Educators and health officials at all levels should be discussing whether sports teams should have more defined seasons and whether all children should have more access to fields and teams.

Of all nations, ours should be dedicated to equal opportunity in youth sports and fitness. Besides promoting health, sports can help keep kids engaged in school and get into college.

And as a side benefit, by developing all the American talent available, we’ll also have a better shot at producing world-class teams.

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Written by rkcookjr

July 12, 2010 at 6:06 pm

Hasta la vista, parks and rec

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California’s budget crisis could take a big chunk out of local parks departments in unique, ugly ways. From the Auburn (Calif.) Journal:

Auburn Area Recreation and Park District officials could be forced to layoff [sic] employees and reduce maintenance at area parks if the state seizes property tax revenue from the already struggling rec district.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has proposed suspending Proposition 1A, the 2004 measure that set up constitutional protections for local revenues. However, a provision allows the state to suspend Prop. 1A and “borrow” up to 8 percent of local government’s property tax revenue. This borrowing could continue for three years, and then must be paid back with interest.

But there is concern by many local agencies that the state will not have the resources available to pay the borrowed money back in three years.

During the district’s board meeting Thursday, directors adopted a resolution finding that a severe fiscal hardship will exist if these additional revenues are seized.

“The board unanimously agrees that through prudent management by the district staff, the residents of the district have continued to receive a sustained level of quality and performance,” said Chairman Curt Smith. “The next ‘cut’ if it occurs will affect the services and facilities we offer.”

The state’s action will cause the district to reopen its approved budget, which was already based on an estimated reduction in revenue due to the current negative economic forecast, to make cuts. These cuts could include layoffs, employee furloughs, decreased maintenance and operations and reductions in direct services to the public.

“While I feel that this (Prop 1A suspension) is an exercise in futility, I am hopeful the state will find other ways to balance their budget besides going after local property tax money,” Director Scott Holbrook said.

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Gov. Schwarzenegger, looking for park district money. And Sarah Conner.

California voters on May 19 rejected a proposition backed by Schwarzenegger that would have raised taxes as a means of closing a $42 billion budget hole — well, at least by $27 billion. Not that parks and recs/youth sports is alone in getting dinged by California’s cratering economy, but this is a pretty stark example of how bad things have gotten/are getting.

One man’s trash is another man’s ballfield funding

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Or not, in the case of East Wenatchee, Wash. Until I read this story in the Wenatchee World, I had no idea how much some municipalties relied on our garbage to fund their youth sports. It makes me feel less guilty for the times I didn’t throw my pop can in the recycle bin.

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This is a) a landfill, b) an environmental catastrophe or c) how we’re going to pay for that new indoor softball complex.

From the World:

Waste Management Central Washington won’t help fund a new youth sports complex through a host fee agreement, reversing a position taken by the company’s former director.

Mayor Steve Lacy said in an e-mail that former director Ted Woodard, who was laid off in January, “was the city’s main advocate in having Waste Management enter into a host fee agreement with the city that would provide about $300,000 a year to promote activities for the youth of the community.”

The e-mail said the city would have received from 85 cents to $1 for each ton of solid waste that went across the scales at Waste Management’s recently expanded landfill.

Lacy had said in a March 2008 blog post, “Waste Management is willing to do this as a way to give back to the community as a result of the community allowing it to expand its landfill (by 92.5 acres in 2008).”

Lacy told the City Council Tuesday evening that he’d met on Jan. 29 with the new director, Dave Lowe, who also serves as director of Waste Management’s Spokane operation, to discuss the agreement.

Lacy said Lowe and other Waste Management key personnel out of Spokane were unaware of the agreement and wanted to see the proposed contract.

“I sent them a copy and later received a letter from their municipal relations manager saying they weren’t interested in pursuing the host fee agreement,” Lacy said.

Ken Gimpel, Waste Management’s municipal relations manager, told The World that Waste Management currently has a host fee agreement with Douglas County because the county is actually the host community. …

[A proposed] multipurpose sports complex, originally anticipated to cost between $10 million and $11 million, is not off the table, said Lacy. He said due to the economic downturn, the project will probably be built in phases.

By the way, from what I can gather through googling, host fees came into vogue in the 1990s as private companies tried to find ways to bribe, er, give an incentive to communities to let them build or expand landfills. (They get the host fees from collecting tipping fees from the municpalities that use the landfill, a tipping fee being what you pay to dump your garbage.) As this release from the Virginia Waste Industries Association brags, a landfill can generate hundreds of thousands of dollars per year in host fees, on top of whatever taxes the company pays, that municipalities can use for whatever they want, including funding for their parks departments. All you have to do is agree to have smelly garbage trucks running through your community day and night and hope the landfill liner doesn’t fail and leech toxins into the ground water.

So if you support youth sports, don’t recycle.