A sports psychologist says youth sports is suffering from out-of-control parents and an overemphasis on winning rather than a more appropriate focus on character.

Dr. Tom Hanson, founder and CEO of Heads-Up Performance, Inc., has consulted with four Major League Baseball teams. And as an expert on athletics who specializes in helping athletes deal with pressure situations, he says he is seeing some disturbing trends in youth sports.

Research shows that nearly 75 percent of children drop out of sports by age 13. Hanson says while some people simply are not drawn to athletic activity, that dropout rate is much higher than it ought to be. "The number-one reason," he says, "is that people play [a sport] for fun," and he contends that many young people just are not enjoying the game.

Hanson observes, "I think the parents and the league organizers' role ought to be [to ask] 'How can we make this fun, and how can we keep it fun?' But instead they take very adult, very professional types of values and impose them at younger and younger levels in the sports, which takes away a lot of the fun."

The sports psychologist says parents need to help their young athletes focus on the process of playing the game instead of worrying about its outcome. A Little Leaguer cannot control whether he gets a base hit, the doctor points out -- or even whether he scores a basket or goal.

"The outcomes we're never going to get away from," Hanson admits, but he adds, "actually, you can look at the outcomes as part of the process. What I'm always trying to help people do is pull back from an experience so they can see a bigger picture of it."

Whether he's working with a Major League player, a six-year-old, or the parent of a six-year-old, Hanson says he always encourages individuals to focus on the process of performance instead of the outcomes. Having that perspective, he says, allows one to view setbacks and losing as being "all part of the game" -- simple aspects of a larger process from which the fun should never be thrown out.

Hanson is co-author of the book Heads-up Baseball: Playing the Game One Pitch at a Time, which has sold more than 55,000 copies worldwide.

Heads Up Performance, Inc. (http://www.headsupcoaching.com)


© 2005 Agape Press. Used with permission. All rights reserved.