Sunday, October 02, 2011

A look at The League of Fans' manifesto for youth sports

The League of Fans, a Ralph-Nader-funded group trying to reform sports culture, recently published part seven of a ten-part “Sports Manifesto,” a document meant to address a number of problems that the League of Fans sees with the win-at-all-costs and profit-at-all-costs trends in the sports world.

The seventh report in the series focuses on youth sports and may be the most foundational to the League of Fans’ efforts as it covers an issue that undergirds the entire sports world.

In the report, Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director for the League of Fans and author of the “Sports Manifesto,” focuses on a number of issues surrounding youth sports, including the role of adult egos, the children’s level of enjoyment, the economics of youth sports, and single-sport specialization.

In all cases, the central point is that the priorities that drive youth sports are skewed, from Reed’s perspective. In light of that, he begins his six-part plan to improve youth sports with the following: “Put the Phrase ‘The needs of the kids come first’ In Every Youth Sports Organization’s Mission Statement.”

Reed has some less obvious and more problematic claims and suggestions (i.e. “Children are always seeking a sense of unconditional love from their parents and when it comes to sports participation they seldom get it,” and “Eliminate the College Athletic Scholarship”).

But Reed and the League of Fans’ general mission with this section of their “Manifesto” is an admirable and important one: looking critically at the youth sports culture. This process is especially important at the youth sports level since youth sports feed into collegiate and professional sports, which are addressed in the League of Fans’ other sections of their “Manifesto.”

Reed has yet to address the role of sports media, in the first seven parts of this ten-part series, but like youth sports, sports media is a significant entity that permeates and affects all other areas of the sports culture. It’s hard to imagine an effective reformation of the sports world that doesn’t involve – at least in part – the industry that’s created the enormous amount of attention that the sports world enjoys.

-Brett Sherrick

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