Parents Stupid Over Sports?

Right in the nick of time for the start of the high school athletic season, NPR reminds parents they're irrational and obsessed over sports. Always a nice touch during the hectic back-to-school crunch. Am I the only one who can't find the mouth guard or shin pads from last year's gym bag? I'd love to do this story and issue justice but I have to pick up my daughter from pre-season tennis practice (honestly). You can read about stupid sports parents at NPR - How Likely Is It, Really, That Your Athletic Kid Will Turn Pro? 

Mind you, NPR provides little new information (or context) in their latest but surely not last contribution to The Crazy Sports Parents Literature. This is hardly a new or rarely-hyped issue. Anyhow, if you're waiting for your kid to come off the field, here's the edited version of the comment I left on NPR:

Once again a story high on anecdote and low on empirical evidence aimed at skewering parents as obsessive and irrational micro-managers. Despite the title, we never actually learn the odds of going pro except for male baseball and basketball players – although the odds of going pro vary considerably by sport and gender. The stats are available. More parents are probably concerned about college scholarships anyhow. NPR could have dug up this information but they didn’t. They also could have reported the percentage of high school athletes who land athletic scholarships. The latter stats are readily available too. Nor do we learn here how many kids participate in high school sports, travel sports or even sports in general. Any of this information would have put the phenomenon into more perspective. Instead we learn 25% of parents HOPE (not believe) their high-school athletes will go pro. Remarkably, even though NPR helped conduct that poll, the link they provide to support that claim lands on results about adult leisurely sports participation and not the dreams of parents.

If a news organization like NPR regularly omits relevant empirical information, than is it fair to portray parents as irrational? How are parents supposed to put their aspirations into perspective without this information? It’s much easier and dramatic to publish loosely-supported articles sure to generate controversy and clicks than to lend nuance and context. It’s more sensational to blame parents than take a look at the complex number of factors contributing to the great emphasis placed on athletics in this country. As a parent of athletic children, I can report it becomes difficult to find a less intense sporting environment as kids get older. There are few options beyond the competitive, costly, time-consuming travel-type teams. I suppose this is also the fault of irrational parents.


Anonymous said...

Wow, I also heard this and wondered about how many parents really think this. Thanks.

Susan said...

Did you look at the other comments at NPR? It's a lot of complaints about obsessive parents. Everyone is piling on, admonishing parents for pushing kids, for setting kids up for injuries, all the fault of parents. Thank you for putting some perspective, or at least asking for some.

Polly Palumbo, Ph.D. said...

There were some depressing comments for sure. But interesting too. I'd love to know what % of parents are the stereotypical hyper-sport type.