Youth Athletes Are Stressed. Do Sports Help or Hurt?

Kids today are over-stimulated, over-caffeinated, and over-scheduled.  The rate of depression and anxiety in today’s youth is at an all time high.  Many think youth sports decreases the stress in our kids.  But I’m not so sure.

First, exercise is GREAT for relieving stress.  Feeling over worked?  Go for run.  Feeling overwhelmed by life?  Hit the gym.  But is youth competitive sports in America akin to a run in the park or a class at the gym?

Ha!  Hell no!  

Imagine that run in the park while all your loved one’s are lined up yelling and screaming at you for 60 minutes. 


Then you look over your shoulder and your Dad is fighting with another Dad about how the running paths don’t seem fair.

What fun that would be!

So here’s my question:

Is the toxic American sports environment helping or hurting our stressed out kids?

The research into whether specializing in one sport too early is fairly conclusive…don’t do it.  Specializing in one sport too early creates over-use injuries and burn out.  Both of which doesn’t create less stress on our kids.  

But the question of stress and depression in our athletes due to a toxic environment of over- bearing parents and screaming coaches is a less researched arena.

Recent analysis tells us that college athletes (especially girls) are more prone to depression than that of their non-athlete peers.  Another study looked at athletes proneness to depression in individual vs team sports, with interesting findings.

If we believe that kids are over-stressed, which I do.  And if we believe that most American youth sports games and practices are stressful and full of yelling and screaming and undefined and unrealistic expectations, which I do.  Then it stands to reason that our already stressed out kids are only getting worse by playing competitive sports.  The only question now, is how do we fix it?

So, what do you think?

Is the toxic American sports environment helping or hurting our stressed out kids?

Leave a comment below and let’s have a discussion!

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