Recreation and Sport Studies

Studying, Experiencing and Facilitating Kinesiology, Recreation and Sport through Wellness and Physical Activity


The Race to the Bottom: Youth Sport and the Increase of Competition for Younger Participants


Sports have been a staple of childhoods across North America for centuries. The organized and structured games that children play are effective activity for solving problems and improving quality of life for individuals and society alike (Coakley, 2011). This is based off the acceptance that sport is a perfect avenue for leaders to instill the values, social norms and desired ideologies of their culture. However, academics have debated the timing of the intervention of organized sports in childhood, particularly those that are based on competition, with many critics concluding that structured play is having a damaging effect on youth (Cote, Lidor, & Hackfort, 2009) (Gould, 2010).

The rise of organized and competitive youth sport has been well documented, especially in the United States. Various books and media have explored the topic, with a large consensus being that the current delivery practices are having a negative impact on participants. One major theme found in the literature surrounding organized competitive youth sport is the prevalence of early specialization. The age that parents and youth are entering the field of organized and competitive play is plummeting, as more pressure is being applied to “get ahead” in the race of sport excellence. This pressure is developing at two particular levels – amongst parents and sport providers.

When understanding the trend of early specialization, it is important to understand the sport system in which the context is set in. For the United States, Tom Farrey’s book, Game On: The All-American Race to Make Champions of Our Children, provides a short and simple explanation of the American youth sport system.

According to Farrey, the American’s poor showing at the 1988 Olympics led the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) to shift its focus on funding athletes (Farrey, 2008). The organization, which is responsible for coordinating and leading elite level sport in the country, began to strategically invest in competitors who were identified as having the potential to win medals, rather than the previous method of investing in all athletes who could meet an international standard for Olympic qualification (Farrey, 2008).

The USOC’s shift in policy caused a ripple that altered the entire sport system in the United States. Public money for grassroots development, the foundation of any strong sport system, was further reallocated for elite performers. This lead to many public sport associations, particularly school-based physical education programs, to cease operations, which lead non-public enterprises to quickly take over the amateur sports industry (Farrey, 2008). These organizations, such as Little League Baseball, Pop Warner Football, and YMCA, instituted pay-to-play models of business, which resulted in the exclusion of participants from low-income households (Friedman, 2013).

Following this shift in policy, youth sport in America has grown into a multi-million-dollar industry. These non-public organizations continue to push for a greater share of the industry, which has caused a fierce competition for participants. In a bid to increase their revenues, the directors of these organizations set their sights on hooking participants, and their cash flush parents, in earlier.

Non-public organizations have played on a theme that has roots in youth sport since it’s inception in the United States. Since the late 1800’s, scholars argued that sport, specifically those competitive in nature, was a device for moral development and social norms (Coakley, 2011) (Chandler & Goldberg, 1990). This was the foundation of school based sport, which was used to prepare students both physically and mentally for the industrial society that was emerging at the time (Friedman, 2013). This trend in sport continued until the 1960’s when a trend called the self-esteem movement began.

The movement marked a shift away from competition in public programing, as it was believed to be detrimental to youth development. Instead, a focus was placed on building confidence and pride in one’s own talent, while re-framing from comparing a child’s abilities to others (Friedman, 2013). This compelled parents, who possessed the financial resources, to pay-to-play providers such as Little League Baseball and Pop Warner Football to provide their kids with the foundation of values to succeed (Friedman, 2013). It was this belief that the pay-to-play organizations expanded upon and monetized.

Americans, like the vast majority of people, are willing to do anything for their children. Parents want to provide their children with a better life, and for them to enjoy everything they did in their youth. This means sports, and parents will do everything in their power to provide their child with the best chance at athletics. Sports in the United States favour early starters, and pay-to-play organizations are compelling parents into entering their kids in organized sports at younger ages.

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Tough Job: Evaluation and drafting of big time Assets

At the professional level, a critical question in player development is: Who to draft and when?

If this question were asked currently with respect to this year’s draft for any given major North American sport could you answer and give a reasonable argument for who you picked and why?  Many can identify a World Junior Hockey tournament star or the Heisman trophy quarterback as projected draft picks for the NHL and NFL respectively, but what about when the draft progresses beyond 10 or 15 big name “blue-chip” prospects?

The NHL draft year is young compared to both the NBA and NFL. It follows that more NHL draft picks  are either “busts” or “late-round gold”, both for the same reason: there is insufficient, or a lack sufficient predictive data to accurately project which player will be impactful at the highest level.  When drafting an 18-year old, there are too many factors in play that can, and will, influence that player’s development into an NHL

Is it impossible to argue that the NHL may at some future date take after the NFL and NBA model and draft players at an older age?  I am hoping to make a career out of scouting and player personnel and I can see that if the NHL finds itself consistently missing on draft picks, (and therefore wasting money on players that do not develop), there may be a movement towards an older draft year.  Professional sports teams are big money businesses and securing a more mature and productive asset to employ could make good business sense.

This hypothesis brings up a number of further topics that would need to be discussed and examined in depth such as:

  1. What to do with players between the 18th and 20th years of age if the draft year is moved to 20?
  2. Would these players stay in the Major Junior or NCAA ranks or would there be a migration to European pro leagues?
  3. How would the new age of entry to the NHL affect entry-level and ‘bridge’ contracts?

I am not arguing for or against moving the age of the NHL draft; rather I am merely highlighting that there may be some positives in the identification and drafting of an older player. The NFL and NBA seems to have found success in implementing rules regarding player age. I think has produced better, more predictive draft picks and a more stable system. There are numerous factors and conditions to be taken into account, but I think it is worthy of greater discussion.


Physical Literacy – Urban vs. Rural Areas

Physical literacy in urban and rural areas should be significantly different, but it mostly depends on your family and your neighborhood. As we all know, physical literacy is the mastering of fundamental movement skills and fundamental sport skills that permit a child to read their environment and make appropriate decisions, allowing them to move confidently and with control in a wide range of physical activity situations (Mandigo, Francis, Lodewyk & Lopez, 2009). Many people suggest that physical literacy “just happens” in child development. This is only true in certain children who are raised in environments where physical activity is encouraged but is also a way of life. On the other hand, some children are raised in more dangerous environments where free physical activity is not encouraged, in order to stay safe. Physical literacy can be developed through a sport or activity, or acquired through the movements that you are comfortable with naturally.

Screen time is becoming the first choice for many, so this means there are less physically literate youth today in both rural and urban areas. For all children, it seems that their parents want what is “safest” for them, so they could end up just putting them in front of a screen to keep them occupied instead of sending them outside to play with friends. Recesses are becoming shorter and physical education classes are no longer mandatory in every school.

Initially, we assumed that there was a cut and dry difference between rural and urban physical literacy, but we found out they were pretty similar. When looking at rural communities, they could have smaller opportunities for recreation and sport activities, or longer commutes to participate in activities (especially if they live in really small areas). On the other hand, some rural communities have loads of recreational activities and yard space so the kids can start working on fundamental movements at a young age. Most of the time, rural town residents are able to walk most places they need to go. When looking at urban communities, there could be an outstanding number of recreational and sporting activities, but more competition. Individuals in this area may have to drive to most of the places they go, which means they will not spend as much time outside.

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The Relatively Older Advantage

KIN 6300 Seminars: The Relative Age Effect

Our age is one of the few defining factors today’s society uses to interpret our status and measure our future potential. Typically this is done by using age brackets or by looking at annual age groups. We (I say this meaning Generation Y) have mostly grown up in a society where status, education, friendships and sport are divided by age, where society tries to collectively group together youth that are the same ages for developmental purposes.


But what if I told you, that this creates advantages and disadvantages for these youth? What if I told you that grouping kids within the same annual age, still doesn’t even the playing field in development.

 You might ask:

What are you talking about? They are the same age; of course it’s even.images1

My response:

Within a given year there are 12 months, in which a kid born in January has 11 months of development and maturity under them then a kid who was born in December. And the most miraculous part is they are the same annual age.

Furthermore, our current social, education and sport systems have had to deal with the problem of how to group children for equal and safe competition.

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Kin 6300 Discussion – Inventing team tradition: A conceptual model for the strategic development of fan Nations

This past October the 14th our KIN 6300 class took a look at Sport Marketing, Focusing in the Invention of team tradition and the process to build Fan Nations. There has been ground breaking development in technology that has allowed teams to expand their horizons toward a much bigger source of supporters. Now teams do not need to just focus on local fans but could go out and attract fans world-wide.

1) Build a Fan Nation

1.1) Why are Fan Nations formed?

The first step here is to understand why these Nations are formed. Among the most common answers inside the literature is that members look for a sense of belonging. Since Life itself is growing distant, and social touch is reduced as time passes by. The membership to a group helps to fill that void.

1.2) What is a Fan Nation

After mentioning some reasons for Nations to form, we could continue to define what a fan Nation is. According to Benedict Anderson (2006), all nations are in fact imagined communities, because most of the members will never meet but in the minds of each one, lives the image of their communion. Sport fans comprise a nation because they share a common image of what it means to be a fan

Continuing on the subject of fandom, sports marketer and researchers have developed stages of classification for sports consumer that go like this:

1- Awareness: A person can not be a fan if said person doesn´t know that the team exists.

2- Attraction: The moment a person decides certain team is their favorite.

3- Attachment: When the team is psychologically meaningful to the fan.

4- Allegiance: Commitment reaches to a level in which it affects their cognition. (Completely devoted)

2) Invention of tradition

Is the method through which a team can create cohesiveness among the community resulting in a ritual that could bring the community together to support the team.

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Sport Participation and Positive Development in Older Persons

As a graduating undergraduate in RSS, an article I would recommend reading is:

Baker, J., Fraser-Thomas, J., Dionigi, R. A., & Horton, S. (January 01, 2010). Sport participation and positive development in older persons. European Review of Aging and Physical Activity, 7, 1, 3-12.

I chose this article because in our degree most of our time is spent wondering how to ready our youth for life and almost none of it is dedicated towards our elderly population. As our population grows older we must turn our attention towards helping them too, as they are equally important.

This article calls for more research to be done surrounding older persons and the benefits they receive from recreation and sport. The article looks at the models developed for youth and tries to see if they could be modified to fit the needs of older persons. The authors look at the 5 C’s and external and internal assets. They then break down  what sport develops in the older participants. To do this they look at Master athletes and the reasons why they participate. The two key reasons are “I’m out here and I can do this” and “Use it or lose it”.  They touch on the burn out rates and how athletes that think “Use it or lose it” have a higher burn out rate. It then goes into limitations of current knowledge and suggest directions for future research.


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Major League Baseball’s controversial recruiting process of Dominican ball players

As a graduating undergraduate in RSS, an article I would recommend reading is:

Zimmer, V. M. (2005). Dragging their devotion – The role of International law in Major League Baseball’s Dominican affairs. Northwestern Journal of International Human Rights, 4(2), 418-435. 

This article suggests that the MLB’s process for recruiting potential players from the Dominican is very different from other places such as Canada, United States and Puerto Rico.  There are three main differences in recruitment: a) the legal signing of sixteen year old players, as well as violations of the minimum signing age by MLB teams; b) the way in which they are signed.  Dominican players are offered nothing for protection; and c) the way in which players train and the resources that are available to them while training.

Diana Spagnulo, a law student, suggests that the MLB is responsible for making sure that the Dominican players are not being taken advantage of.   However, others would say that the Dominican must take care of their own people.  The Dominican government also knows that they are being taken advantage of, but choose not to do anything about it because it provides their country with great economic benefits.

Marcano and Fidler (2009) suggest that because the MLB is a business, they should follow and enforce human rights laws.  This duo argues that the MLB should follow international legal mechanisms like the Convention on the Rights of the Child.  If the Dominican government were to step up and change their own laws around this issue, then the MLB would have no other choice but to recruit and sign players the legal way.  With this being said, the MLB must also be held accountable for their wrong doings and actions.

Here is a trailer of a documentary that accompanies this article very well.  Hope you enjoy!