• Teen Voice - Brittany McIntyre: So much stress on young athletes

  • With all the fall activities, students are feeling the stress. And I’m not talking about school. I’m talking about the growing number of children in competitive sports.

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  • With all the fall activities, students are feeling the stress. And I’m not talking about school. I’m talking about the growing number of children in competitive sports.
    Ideas have changed about the intensity of youth sports. Even just a decade ago, sports were played for camaraderie and enjoyment. Now, it’s turning into a game of who can get the most college scholarships before turning 14.
    As a soccer referee, the concept that kids need to be pushed to their full potential can be found even on a U5 soccer field. Parents yell at their sons and daughters for not scoring 10 goals per game, at the coaches for not teaching their child enough, and at the referee for poor officiating, which is ridiculous for a 5-year-old recreational soccer game.
    Then, when they feel like their child’s coach (which at this point is just a parent, as it should be at this young of an age) isn’t good enough for them, they move to the competitive league, which in the KC area, starts at 7 years old.
    Soon, the child is attending practice three days a week, going to games all over the metro every weekend, and traveling out of city and sometimes out of state for tournaments.
    When the child is in their preteens, they are forced to choose just one sport to compete in, and when they start high school, they attend college showcases and start talking about prospective schools to play for.
    Sounds like a lot of pressure for a child who is also dealing with friendships, school work, and the constant changing emotion that comes with being a teenager. So it’s no surprise when the child quits sports completely because they are tired of being pressured by their coaches and parents.
    A perfect example of the toll of competitive sports is the Lifetime show “Dance Moms.” These kids are 8 to 11 years old and go to practice every day and competition every weekend. There is always fighting, drama, and crying as we get a glimpse into how much stress these parents put on their kids. And if the child has another obligation/school activity? The dance teacher is usually not too pleased and the child is looked down upon. They are hardly allowed to have any life outside of dance class.
    University of Southern California sophomore Caroline Stanley knows all about juggling high-level sports. A graduate of Lee’s Summit North High School, Stanley has been playing soccer since she was 5 years old. She, like many young athletes do, jumped from one comp team to another until she landed on KCFC Intensity her freshman year of high school, one of the most successful soccer clubs in the KC area. From there, she was selected to play for the Region II Olympic Development Program, a program designed to showcase up-and-coming athletes to the Olympic soccer teams. Stanley was then selected to be the goalkeeper on the U17 national team and trained with them for the CONCACAF World Cup. She committed to play for the University of Missouri, however, she had problems there and transferred to USC. Although Stanley has had many opportunities than others dream of having, she says that it is difficult.
    Page 2 of 2 - “It’s extremely stressful being a Division I athlete. It’s a burden and a blessing. The opportunities I have because of soccer are extraordinary. I faced many obstacles along the way. It was truly an uphill battle. But I think that obstacles are stepping stones, not stumbling blocks,” Stanley said.
    While competitive sports can be overwhelming, the athletes will do all they can to be the best they can be. There’s a difference between playing club sports at age 8 and age 17. Parents should be letting their kids make the decision so they don’t burn out on the sport that they once loved.
    There is a fine line between having fun and causing stress. But for a lot of athletes, the camaraderie of competitive sports is just what is needed.
    “I missed a lot of school and social activities for soccer throughout the years, but I wouldn’t change a thing. Soccer has given back to me more than I could ever have imagined receiving. Soccer saved my life,” Stanley said.
    Brittany McIntyre is a junior at Blue Springs South High School.

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