thank you thank you every year in the United States about 40 million children play youth sports yet 70% of those kids drop out and quit by the time they're 13 years old three out of four children are done with sports before high school now as a person who's been involved in athletics his whole life as a college and a professional soccer player and a coach for the last 20 years I wanted to know why was this happening what is so many kids quit something that has made such a positive impact on my life and then about three years ago I realized the answer to that question standing on the sidelines of my five-year-old daughter Maggie soccer game now if you've ever seen five-year-old soccer it's amazing this is giant scrum of players and it moves up and down the field and there's lots of giggling and laughing sometimes the player breaks out in scores and the right goal sometimes she kicks it in the wrong goal twice the chance of success it doesn't matter I choose happy parents are positive everyone's supportive coaches are positive there's no referee to yell at this is what sports supposed to be well on this particular day there was a ten-year-old boys game in right next door and it should be just the same right but it was completely different it was a competitive ten-year-old boys game and I say competitive in quotes because it wasn't the kids who are competing harder it was the adults a kid makes a bad pass the ball gets stolen and the other team scores and then all hell breaks loose the coach jumps off his bench he screams at the kidney Yanks him out of the game next his dad is on the other sideline screaming at him his his parents friends parents they're screaming at him and as I'm watching this I'm saying to myself wow this is exactly why children drop out of sports because Sports is supposed to be about children playing and children having fun and learning and none of that is happening here now I want to just invite you for a moment to get into the mindset of a ten-year-old boy or any young athlete today because it's very very different than when I was growing up you go to a game and you're just going to play a game but yet so many of the adults they're acting like it's the World Series they're acting like it's the NBA Finals and you're just there to play a game there's coaches and parents screaming at you from the sidelines sometimes they're screaming at you sometimes they're screaming at the referee sometimes they're screaming at each other now you get in the car after the game and you just want to relax and emotionally unwind and yet this is the time when so many parents choose to deconstruct your game and criticize and critique your performance now you sit around your kitchen table and you hear your parents talking about the time and the financial commitment that it takes to play youth sports maybe you'll get a scholarship down the line to help pay for all this and that just adds pressure and stress and then finally at the end of the year the end of the season when you're ready to move on to another sport what happens your coach sits you down and says uh-uh you can't do that you're not moving on because if you're going to stay on this team you need to play your round and if you don't I'm going to give your spot away this is what so many children feel these days this type of pressure and that's why seven out of ten of them quit youth sports seven out of ten are done now I call this the the great giant race to nowhere in you sports and it's a race because so many kids and so many parents were in such a hurry to do more more more at younger and younger ages and I say it ends nowhere because while we tend to focus on the few athletes who get a scholarship or turn pro the vast majority end up somewhere else they end up hating sports they end up with damaged relationships with their parents and for some kids end up with physical and emotional scars that last a lifetime we have to end this great race to nowhere we have to change the game and use sports we have to give it back to our kids and today I want to tell you how we can do that now some people say to me Oh John to you the anti-competitive guy trophies for everyone no keeping score no standings not not at all that is not me I don't believe in participation Awards I don't think every kid who shows up should get a trophy just for doing the bare minimum and as far as being competitive I spent the last 20 years coaching elite youth soccer players I spent four of those years as a Division one college men's soccer coach so know a little something about competitive athletes and what I saw on that 10 year old boy's game and what I see in so many sports all around the country that is not it these kids aren't becoming more competitive they're not becoming better they're becoming bitter and they're dropping out of sports seven out of ten of them now what we've come to accept is this new environment and youth sports would never be acceptable anywhere else in life we never accept it in our workplace we do ever tolerate if our teachers treated our kids like this and we would certainly never tolerate it if our children treated us in our events like we treat them can you imagine what that would feel like in your golf game or your tennis match for our children treat us well our friends at Hockey Canada they've imagined such a thing check it out come on dad focus why do you stand so little don't slow and don't screw up is the business what are you doing he found the ball does anyone need that kind of help in their golf game no awesome so if we're gonna change you sports in this country the first thing we have to remember is why children play now Michigan State University did a huge study on this about 30,000 kids and they asked them why do you play and the number one reason why children play sports is because it's fun they like to learn they like to be with their friends they enjoy the excitement but they don't play because of winning they like to win they value winning but it's not why they show up it doesn't even make the top ten on why they play now by the same token wanted children quit sports children quit because they're sick and tired of being criticized and yelled at they quit because they're afraid to make mistakes and they quit because of an emphasis on winning which leads to a lack of playing time for so many kids and for others it leads to all-star teams and thus cuts at seven eight nine years old where we tell kids you're not even good enough to play now we can change the game in the United States by education now what we do at my organization called the changes in the game project is we travel to schools and we travel to youth sports organizations what we teach people is that the single greatest factor that affects performance is state of mind and we give people the tools to instill what we call a positive high-performing mindset in our athletes we teach them things like accepting your kids goals and giving them ownership of their experience we teach them how to praise your kids so it's helpful and not harmful and we teach them to just let your kids fail and learn from failure and that actually real-world the most successful people are the people who are willing to fail the most but the single most fundamental thing that we teach what I want to teach you today is something I learned about ten years ago from a man who's become a great friend and mentor his name's coach Bruce Brown and it's just five simple words I love watching you play I love watching you play changes everything for your kids because what it tells them is that your love for them does not depend on whether they win or lose or how they perform now I know this might seem very simple but it's incredibly incredibly powerful I want to tell you the story of Peter Smith Peters a former professional tennis player he's the men's coach at USC he's won four national championships in over 500 matches and Peter when we cross paths he came to me and he said he was struggling because he's got three boys of his own all competitive tennis players and he was struggling being their coach and their dad and what he said was what was happening on the court was affecting the whole family off the court when Peter learned to just let go when he learned to just love watching his kids plays had everything changed his children played harder they played better and when tennis was over they stepped off the court and the whole family life got better he says it has changed his family so much that sometimes his kids still look at him with a look that says you know who are you and what did you do with my dad I want to also tell you the story of my friend Stephanie Emerson Stephanie is the mom of four boys four athletes three of them are boys one of her sons actually made the u.s. youth national team in soccer and Stephanie I we're talking when I was writing my book because she the whole race to nowhere was just killing our new sports the pressure the time the commitments she said John please give me your single best piece of advice and I told Stephanie you know what Steph just tell your kids you love watching them play so she looks at me kind of funny and she takes a step back she's like really that's the best you got it's like John I'm sorry you're my favorite you're not gonna sell any books with that stuff so fast forward a year Stephanie sent me a letter and I want to read it to you today it says John a year ago you told me simply love watching my kids play and that's the only thing I say to the kids I don't say anything about how they played or wins and losses just that such a privilege and honor to watch them and it's amazing how each time I say it it becomes more true and more impactful for even me there's opened my eyes to a whole other kind of joy and contentment Stephanie simply by learning to love watching her kids play changed everything Peter Smith changed everything in his family and you guys can too now I'm not saying it's gonna be easy I'm not saying it's a one-time thing and I'm not saying that you won't slip up everyone slips up I slip up one of the things that kids say is one of their worst memories and you sports is the ride home after games because parents give him a hard time well when my son TJ started playing soccer I was his first coach and he shows up first game and he steps on the fields dad I don't want to play today he walks off I was okay with that but when he did it the next week now I was a little bit upset now I was wondering hmm this isn't so good I was embarrassed I'm wondering what these parents are thinking of me I'm supposed to be this all-star coach and I can't even get my own kid to play so we get in the car after the game and I'm buckling myself in and my son's in the back and I turn around like so TJ and all sudden Wham karate chop from my wife sitting next to me in the front seat and she looks at me she says really didn't you just write a whole book about this can you please just drive us home and I said nothing and he's played ever since so it makes a huge difference so I want to finish with this I told you about my daughter Maggie soccer team this is them this picture was taken three years ago they're called the unicorns my daughter Maggie is the third one from the left now when I see this picture and I see the joy on these kids faces and I know the powerful impact that sports can have on their lives not only making them better athletes but better people then I know it is time to end this crazy race to nowhere it's time to change the game and give you sports back to our kids by fulfilling their needs and their priorities not ours and every single one of us can do our part simply by starting with five simple words I love watching you play I believe that's not only an idea worth spreading but that's an idea whose time has definitely come thank you you you you

Changing the game in youth sports: John O'Sullivan at TEDxBend
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45 thoughts on “Changing the game in youth sports: John O'Sullivan at TEDxBend

  • June 20, 2019 at 1:05 pm
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    i watched this a year ago and disagreed with John mainly because i was that parent and though my daughter could take it. Well after watching her fear of walking up to my wife and i after her soccer matches i decided we had to try a different approach, this simple " i love watching you play" has completely changed things.. (A) her stress level has drastically decreased and her passion for soccer is stronger then ever leading to (B) her play on the filed has increasingly got better! thank you for this John.

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  • June 20, 2019 at 1:05 pm
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    I understand what he is saying, but if he is truthful, all of those elite players he has coached we the exact kids he was saying don’t become. Those soccer players that make it to elite levels, over 95% of them are playing club soccer year round. So while I understand that parents (including myself) need to get a good handle of the situation, to be competitive, you have to compete with the others you will be measured. It’s quite the paradox. I am dealing with it with my 10 year old this very moment and his BJJ training. It’s a fine and difficult line.

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  • June 20, 2019 at 1:05 pm
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    Great speech and so true! He is right on! Ive said this for years!

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  • June 20, 2019 at 1:05 pm
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    So inspiring and encouraging for some people who had dropped out thinking that sports was not for them. A lesson to the entire community of sports

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  • June 20, 2019 at 1:05 pm
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    I love the messages! Cool.

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  • June 20, 2019 at 1:05 pm
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    ^_^ ^_^ ^_^

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  • June 20, 2019 at 1:05 pm
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    Competition is a good thing to have, but this focuses on the issue that there is too much pressure for youth to perform in their sport

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  • June 20, 2019 at 1:05 pm
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    uau mega bjss da kemily play

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  • June 20, 2019 at 1:05 pm
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    Hmm, 253,381 views and only 1k in likes sounds like many people did not agree with all of it. They did not want to give a thumbs up or down, I am one of those people. You had Interesting points I agree on some but not all of it. As your child ages there needs to be some level of accountability as they have a commitment to the team and their goals. If your child does not play competitive they have little chance of making their sports long term goals. Those are facts that your kids cannot comprehend and it is your responsibility to explain as they age.

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  • June 20, 2019 at 1:05 pm
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  • June 20, 2019 at 1:05 pm
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    I hate and don't speak to my family because they forced me to play sports. Sports ruined my life

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  • June 20, 2019 at 1:05 pm
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    john i feel the same. ive been a youth coach since 1993. I am currently in the process of creating a nonprofit with a twist. anyways thanks for this lecture.

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  • June 20, 2019 at 1:05 pm
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    This takes a little while for him to get to the good part, but is very much worth watching about how to encourage them to have fun. The phrase "I loved watching you play" has made a big difference at house. Listen to the whole thing in you are able.

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  • June 20, 2019 at 1:05 pm
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    Boooooo this is shit. If there are parents screaming like that then it's only a few and it's not all parents at all games. I mean It's not as if loud parents have a group think and/or a cop's mindset… A child's experience is indicative of the club and how the club is managed, it's curriculum and the people chosen to train the youth in whatever the sport. For every bad parent there is 20 great ones. This video is shit. What really drives 75% of teens away is no more fun. The reason there is no more fun is because of a combination of things… Poor coaching is the number one reason why things become no more fun. The decision by the child or the forced choices of homework and family duties can impair practicing and progression. No practicing (at all) holds a child back, especially if other teammates have physically developed faster. This makes sports less fun. The less you know the worse off you'll be…
    Furthermore, girls have different reasons for stopping than boys and variables are vast. But the antagonist cruel sport parent is not as common as this video commands. If there is these monster parents at every turn, again, it would be due to the lack of coaching not the parents interest

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  • June 20, 2019 at 1:05 pm
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    Thank you! I have always been criticized for thinking that kids should PLAY sports. Both my kids have wanted to quit sports for this very reason. I was given this video by my son's new hockey coach. My son is 10. This video brings back many moments of sadness when my son was in tears because a coach yelled at him.

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  • June 20, 2019 at 1:05 pm
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    So many young athletes won't make it further because of their terrible coaching as a kid. https://www.theodysseyonline.com/to-the-coach-who-ruined-the-game-for-me

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  • June 20, 2019 at 1:05 pm
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    Bollocks,cultural Marxism in sports.

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  • June 20, 2019 at 1:05 pm
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    wow revelation!

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  • June 20, 2019 at 1:05 pm
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    Truely inspiring! Shared it with all my Club parents and coaches…..

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  • June 20, 2019 at 1:05 pm
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    Inspirational words – Thank you. Sharing this with my group right now.

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  • June 20, 2019 at 1:05 pm
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    What a brilliant talk. Thank you John for your authenticity and commitment to kids.

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  • June 20, 2019 at 1:05 pm
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    <3 Good sportsmanship.

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  • June 20, 2019 at 1:05 pm
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    So let's just cancel practices and game planning and just show up and have fun. The point of a vs. sports isn't to compete it's to just run around not knowing what you are doing, but most importantly it's to have fun. Teaching kids not to compete leads to failure. We, in this country, compete for everything. We compete for parking spaces, for jobs, for scholarships. Do we address our children when they are not performing in the classroom? Why shouldn't we address what they are doing wrong in sports? Youth sports are about commitment, pride, honor, goals and competition. Only a few are meant to compete, the rest will be basket weavers and that is fine.

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  • June 20, 2019 at 1:05 pm
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    While I agree with what you are saying, I think there is another issue we need to tackle as well. That is finding opportunities for "recreational" youth athletes. While there are plenty of "beer leagues" in all kinds of sports for adults, once a child becomes a teenager, there is not a lot of opportunity to continue to play sports on a "recreational" level. A large time and training commitment is expected for most teams, and for kids who might not be that "good" at a sport, there is just no place for them on the team, or no playing time if they are on the team.
    I think another challenge we need to meet is to have truly recreational programs for kids (especially as they get to high school age) that focus on fun and participation – where you don't have to be "the best" to play.

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  • June 20, 2019 at 1:05 pm
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    And to think of what I missed. Unsupervised games, playing all day, having fun (unless windows were broken while playing baseball but as kids, we had our own rule for this – everyone pays if a window is broken). As kids, we entertained ourselves, learned teamwork and valued friendship, and celebrated when friends were on teams that did well. Our coaches never allowed individual "glory" and only focused on team effort and team results. I wonder what we did wrong to be able to play without constant adult supervision urging us on to the "competitive or traveling team" when all we wanted to do was play with friends. We learned to deal with disappointment, no trophies or ribbons, or not making the cut for elite teams because we were only friends looking out for each other and having fun together.

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  • June 20, 2019 at 1:05 pm
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    Totally agree. So glad I didn't need a video to tell me those 5 words. Proud to know that I've always said that to my children. Still is true to this day!

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  • June 20, 2019 at 1:05 pm
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    I really needed to know how I should be handling it at my kids youth bb games, it has become an uncomfortable place for me …..I LOVE WATCHING HIM PLAY but it was getting lost in the  BS with  the other parents. Some of them are SOOOO intense.  Thanks for  the simple reality check! I am going to give the game back to my kid, and by doing so, get the joy back for us both…..

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  • June 20, 2019 at 1:05 pm
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    Outstanding!!! This is exactly what our group has been saying for years!

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  • June 20, 2019 at 1:05 pm
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    awesome. thank you for sharing. i work at a rec and park in california and see this everyday. 

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  • June 20, 2019 at 1:05 pm
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    Awesome! I needed to see this today. I love watching my daughter play!!

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  • June 20, 2019 at 1:05 pm
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    In youth leagues where I am the organizer carries a bag of lollipops.  Any parent getting too intense or loud is given a lollypop as a quieter way of telling them they need to shut their mouths.  It is good psychology too, puts the peer pressure and shame back on them, not their kids.  No parent wants to be singled out in that way, so they bite their tongues a bit.

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  • June 20, 2019 at 1:05 pm
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    Thanks we all as parents should do this.I love watching you play…WOW,Thanks John great message.

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  • June 20, 2019 at 1:05 pm
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    Excellent message John! The 5 words you used; "I love watching you play" are powerful…for both kids and parents. One of the most important things a parent and coach can do for kids is to build their self-confidence and self-esteem…which often means watching kids try, make mistakes and continue to want to play because they're not being criticized, especially in front of their peers. The worst thing a coach or parent can do is to remove the joy of playing and looking forward to playing in young kids…older ones too! Thank you for what you're doing for kids and their parents!

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  • June 20, 2019 at 1:05 pm
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    Changing the Game has changed the way I coach my sons in both football and baseball. This reinforces everything I have been trying to do and offers great insight of how to do it better. The other parents love it as well. It is just to easy to get all wrapped up in the heat of the moment etc. Thanks!

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  • June 20, 2019 at 1:05 pm
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    I am a parent our three children, aged 17, 18 and 20.  All have played sports their whole lives.  I myself was also an athlete growing up and became a Level III coach.  Of course my kids all played the one sport I did not play or coach in the past and that was soccer. ( my son has since moved onto playing football)  I have been trying to share similar thoughts throughout my kids lives, with them and their coaches.  (not many coaches will listen to a "Mom" or female )  I am THRILLED to see this and will share it with all coaches, board's ect, that my kids are involved with.  It is such a vital and important message for both parents and coaches of kids in youth sports.  THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!!  Do you travel into Canada? How can I bring or get your talk into schools here?

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  • June 20, 2019 at 1:05 pm
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    however , kids need to be competitive because everyday life is competitive , from studies to getting a job . They need to learn this early in life , sooner the better .

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  • June 20, 2019 at 1:05 pm
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    Don't forget… after kids move to high school, "youth sports" end. Unless you make the cut onto the high school team, there are no longer youth sports leagues to join. Guess who always makes the cut in high school sports? Only the top 10-15 players out of the pool of a hundred that played in middle school. I am trying to deal with this issue now while coaching my son's 8th grade basketball team. We have been together for 5 seasons and play in a recreational division in the county youth basketball league. This is the last year we can compete in this league. The guys on my team are not going to make the cut in high school, so they generally stop playing organized basketball. All the parents of my players have voiced that they want to keep playing with this team. I am trying to expand youth sports for the rest of the kids into high school. Any ideas?

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  • June 20, 2019 at 1:05 pm
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    Right on- so many parents living thru their children and not letting their children play

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  • June 20, 2019 at 1:05 pm
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    Wow…such a personal gut check for me as a parent/coach of both my daughter's softball and son's soccer teams. Great message John. Thanks.

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  • June 20, 2019 at 1:05 pm
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    This is a great video! I sent it to several people one the commissioner of our basketball league.  I have seen some terrible things in soccer and especially AAU basketball. I guess they think their 10 year old is some day going to get them rich.  However, the finger points back at my husband and I, we are guilty of the car talks and expecting just too much 🙁   Thank you again!

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  • June 20, 2019 at 1:05 pm
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    This guy is great! I think he should have eaten an apple before going on stage though. The mouth noise is annoying.

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