Our Leagues Are More Important Than Ever

By Brian Gotta, President of CoachDeck

My son, who is 25 and a pro baseball player, recently gave a rare compliment to my wife’s and my parenting when he said, “You guys were smart not to get us a PlayStation when we were younger because it forced us to go outside and play.”

Not only do video games encourage kids to sit indoors and wallow in inactivity, but all the new technology devices we didn’t have as kids are creating a sedentary generation. We all need to deal with this reality individually as parents, but those of us involved in youth sports leagues have perhaps and even greater responsibility. There has never been a time when the availability of good, quality youth sports organizations has been more vital. For years I’ve been writing wistfully about the “good old days” when children would play unsupervised, invent games, stay out until dark, make up their own rules and settle their own disputes. But those days may be gone for most of us. So getting kids involved with structured sports leagues could be our best chance to keep them active, fit and healthy.

Our partners at PHIT America.org recently published statistics showing that childhood obesity has more than doubled in children and quadrupled in adolescents in the past 30 years. Children and adolescents who are obese are likely to be obese as adults and are therefore more at risk for adult health problems such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke, several types of cancer, and osteoarthritis. One study showed that children who became obese as early as age 2 were more likely to be obese as adults Healthy lifestyle habits, including healthy eating and physical activity, can lower the risk of becoming obese and developing related diseases.

The dietary and physical activity behaviors of children and adolescents are influenced by many sectors of society, including families, communities, schools, child care settings, medical care providers, faith-based institutions, government agencies, the media, and the food and beverage industries and entertainment industries.

What this means to me is we need to be evangelicals for our sports leagues. We must double our efforts to boost enrollment through advertising, word-of-mouth – any and all methods we can employ. Get the word out at local schools, encourage existing members to bring along friends and neighbors, be proactive in the community. Shake the bushes.

We also should look at the way our organizations are run. Are we trying to be as inclusive as possible, or do we discourage some children from trying us out? Leagues that are overly-competitive or that don’t teach volunteer coaches how to make kids love the experience might see their numbers dwindle as they lose participants to the myriad of new ways they can have fun without any fear or embarrassment.

If you are involved in running a youth sports organization, you are absolutely providing a service that is vital to your community and will have lasting, positive benefits that practically can’t be overstated. It’s time we all got off the couch and make sure every kid in town does too.

Brian Gotta is a former professional youth baseball coach and current volunteer Little League coach and board member. He is the President of CoachDeck and also author of four youth sports novels which can be found at www.booksbygotta.com. He can be reached at brian@coachdeck.com