By Coach Joe Sperle
In today’s world of sports, it has become increasingly important to educate parents and how they can support their children, physically, mentally, and emotionally. We want our children to continue to play and enjoy sports, have fun and positive life changing experiences.
Playing baseball, basketball, and football for fun was a big part of my life starting at age 6. I had many great experiences and excelled winning national championships and awards and I also loss many games. Playing sports taught me life lessons, skills, and made me into the dad, coach, and mentor I am today. These great times on the fields and courts are what helped build self-esteem, perseverance, social and leadership skills, friendships, and fun-filled memories.
Youth sports in today’s world has changed since I played sports as a youth. There were no youth tournament teams and showcases for college or professional team recruitment. Parents did not pay thousands of dollars to play on teams as many parents do today to play on tournament teams that play 2, 3, or 4 weekends a month incurring travel and food expenses which some parents cannot afford. Many parents do this because they think their son or daughter has to play on these tournament teams starting at age 7 or 8 to play the sport in high school and college. There was Little League, Pony, and American Legion baseball, Pop-Warner football, and YMCA and AAU basketball leagues to play in. Practices and games in these leagues were played as the same time as MLB, NFL, and NBA seasons. I did not play more than one sport at a time and not year-round. There were less injuries and
burnout before pay-for-play tournament teams that play 8 or more months a year.
What I have seen the past 15 years in my dad and coaching experiences, is many boys and girls ages 14 and older are not playing sports anymore. A study by the National Alliance for Youth Sports showed similar statistics that 70% of boys or girls are no longer playing sports after age 13. The reasons for this are from burnout, not having fun anymore, win-at-all costs coaching and parental pressure, overuse injuries from playing too much and not developing properly. I saw many athletes who were talented and should have played sports in high school and college but quit for the above reasons. If the parents and athletes had been educated on the sports systems and understood more about the untraveled road of sports playing, their son or daughter would have played longer and had positive life changing experiences and many would not have quit.
One key to helping your son or daughter continue to play sports and have fun is for the parents to be educated on the sports systems. There are good pay-for-play tournament teams and there are bad pay-for-play tournament teams. The coaches are a big key to making the team a good or bad experience. The coaches to watch out for are the ones that want to win-at-all costs and for their personal accolades. I have seen many players not develop on tournament and middle and high school teams, not getting to play in games after many hours of practice, and not having fun anymore. The boys and girls are feeling pressure from their parents to obtain a college scholarship. Sports were started and are played for pastime, fun, and to develop friendships and life skills. I have coached and helped many athletes obtain college scholarships and agree, it can be a great way to help pay for a college
education. But athletes playing sports solely to get a college scholarship usually does not work. In today’s competitive sports systems, the athlete and parents should have a mentor and someone to talk with who is an advocate of the athlete. A mentor or coach that has been down the road of the athlete and can help guide the athlete and parents down the correct path to keep playing sports and to reach their potential. Parents should support their son or daughter and give them encouragement and emotional support when playing a sport and not solely focus on winning and obtaining a college scholarship. I learned many life lessons from losing games. Many parents have also passed on their unfulfilled sports playing to their children. The children are brilliant and pick up on the pressure to play for their parents. To help your son or daughter enjoy playing sports you should let your unfulfilled sports playing days go and enjoy watching them play in games and support and give positive encouragement, win or lose.
Specializing in only one sport starting at a young age has not produced a high percentage of athletes that continue to play in high school and college and causes overuse injuries. In the 2018 National Football League draft, 226 of the 256 players drafted played more than one sport as a youth and in high school. The college coaches I have talked with over the last 15 years are looking for coachable high school athletes who play more than one sport in high school. I would be excited when basketball, football, and baseball seasons would start but by the end of the 3rd month of the season I was ready for the next sport to start. I had great passion for the above sports but if I would have played one sport almost year round, I would have been burned out, incurred overuse injuries, lost passion, and quit resulting in not having the great memories and positive life changing experiences I did.
The more children that continue to play sports and have fun and develop life skills, the better the world will be.
About Coach Joe Sperle
Joe has over 30 years as a Pro Sports/Baseball Trailblazer, Executive & Consultant, and President/Founder of the Freedom Pro Baseball Minor League in Arizona and playing and professional coaching experience. Joe and his son, Josh, are 3 time Father-Son World Series Champions and Joe was the Father Home Run Champion. Joe was inducted to the ND Softball Hall of Fame and one of the teams he played on was voted the best softball team ever in ND with a record of 101-4. Joe went 5-5 in the Class A State Championship game that season hitting 5 home runs setting a state record. Joe hit 50 home runs that season with 7 of them walk-offs to keep their 49 game winning streak going.
Joe was voted to the American Softball Assocation All-American team after winning the National Co-Ed Softball Championship in Ft. Worth, TX and hitting .722 and playing shortstop.
Joe overcame the death of his mom when he was 11 . His mom was a top athlete and female swimmer from Scotland who was one of the first women to attempt the 21 milestone feat of the swimming the English Channel. Joe's father became disabled from diabetes and PTSD from war service and passed a few years later at a VA hospital. Joe raised a 3-year younger brother after his parents died and is a Bank Executive.
Joe Trailblazed 4 Professional Minor League baseball teams creating and overseeing all business, stadium and baseball operations and signed and coached over 300 talented college players to their first pro contract with the Freedom Pro Baseball Minor League playing at the state-of-the art SF Giants, A's, Mariners, Padres, Indians, and Reds spring training stadiums. Some players after developing their skills in the Freedom Pro Baseball Minor League were signed and are playing on Major League Baseball (MLB) teams.
Some of the Freedom Pro Baseball Minor League coaches were not able to find professional coaching jobs after their pro playing days and Joe hired them to their first pro coaching position and mentored them and some are currently coaching for MLB teams.
Joe has also coached and mentored numerous Little League All-Stars and over 300 High School All-Region and All-State players who went on to attend college on a baseball scholarship. 48 players were drafted by the Nationals,Astros,Brewers, White Sox , Red Sox, Dodgers, Yankees, Phillies, , Rays, Royals, Mariners, Rangers, Angels, A's, & Diamondbacks.