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Some kids thrive off intense competition, and the best players receive an unprecedented level of coaching and training. The travel circuit can also bring people of different backgrounds together in a way that local leagues by definition do not. Already, there are worrying signs. A growing body of research shows that intense early specialization in a single sport increases the risk of injury, burnout and depression. Fees and travel costs are pricing out lower-income families. Those who do often chase scholarships they have a minuscule chance of earning.

Whatever the answer is, the transition has been seismic, with implications for small towns, big businesses and millions of families.

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The group holds tournaments across the nation, and it ranks youth teams in basketball, baseball and softball. The softball rankings begin with teams age 6 and under. Baseball starts at age 4. The Alamo Texas Drillers were No. This summer, Luke Martinez, 10, played second base for the Drillers. His family lives in a well-appointed mobile home in south San Antonio. The family has skipped car payments and put off home repairs to help.

There may be no single factor driving the professionalization of youth sports more than the dream of free college. For most, a savings account makes more sense than private coaching. Still, the scholarship chase trickles down to every level. College coaches are now courting middle-schoolers, and competitive high school teams scout the club ranks. In some places, travel teams have supplanted high school squads as the priority for top players. Katherine Sinclair, 12, has played basketball games in Philadelphia and New York City on the same day, but she embraces the grind.

The Internet has emerged as a key middleman, equal parts sorting mechanism and hype machine. For virtually every sport, there is a site offering scouting reports and rankings. The basketball site middleschoolelite.

Throwaway Players: The Concussion Crisis From Pee Wee Football to the NFL

Social-media-savvy parents now build Twitter and Instagram feeds around their young athletes. Children sense that the stakes are rising. In a study published in the journal Family Relations, Dorsch and his colleagues found that the more money families pour into youth sports, the more pressure their kids feel—and the less they enjoy and feel committed to their sport.

Even well-meaning parents, meanwhile, can find themselves swept up. You feel it a little more. But we want the kids to have fun and be with their friends. The connection is clear for kids and investors alike. Other major companies have also entered the fray. In August, SportsEngine launched a searchable directory of more than , youth-sports camps, teams and leagues.

Time Inc. The boom has given rise to countless entrepreneurial efforts, from new facilities to recruiting sites to private-coaching outfits.

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Even during the depths of the Great Recession, revenue for Travel Team USA, a company that books youth-sports travel, continued to double year over year. In , entrepreneur Fliegel launched CoachUp, an app that connects young athletes with coaches. Across the U. Cities and towns are using tax money to build or incentivize play-and-stay mega-complexes, betting that the influx of visitors will lift the local economy. That was the thinking in Westfield, Ind. The city is hoping that tax revenue generated by new hotels, retail outlets and medical facilities near the park will eventually pay off the debt.

Westfield officials had considered attempting to draw a minor-league baseball team to the city. Our moneymaker is regional tournaments, under 16 years of age. Because they bring Mom, Dad, brother, sister, grandparents. The acre venue allows Disney to collect revenue from tournament fees, hotel stays and theme-park tickets, while giving it another way to win the hearts—and future wallets—of its youngest customers.

Business is thriving. Sometime this winter, the Sports KingDome, a facility with , sq. It will become one of the largest domes on the planet, and the owner plans to auction naming rights to the highest bidder. Would that be so bad? Tackle football in our area begins at age 7, as long as the child weighs at least 40 pounds. He attended the non-contact minicamp alongside his older brother and decided that he, too, wanted to play tackle. And it has been that way ever since. I could go on for days.

For these reasons and so many more, I am forever thankful for giving organized tackle football the chance. And I would encourage all of you who may be on the fence to give it a try as well. I promise you won't regret it. Vanessa Mejia is the mother of three football-playing boys, ages 14, 12 and 9, and lives in northern Virginia. What I've gained and learned from being a football mom.

A newfound respect for coaches. All of the coaches in our club are volunteers, from the head coach to assistants. They spend countless months, days, and hours on the field and off, helping our children to become the best they can be. Many begin so young and haven't the slightest idea how to even get into a three-point stance.

Scientists Were Already Concerned About Kids Playing Tackle Football. It’s Worse Than They Thought.

The coaches don't make a penny, but they invest lifelong lessons into our players that cannot be bought. Not all football leagues are created equal. They spend hours obtaining this certification to be able to teach the proper tackling technique to our players. I have received several inquiries in my position as registrar specifically questioning this.

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Parents get a sense of relief when I tell them, "yes. I take that back.

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One little boy got one at school and had to sit out several games. You see? Concussions can happen anywhere. Hard-working boys. Come August, my boys practice five days a week, two hours a day. Rain or shine. As a result, they have learned that if you want something in life, you have to work hard to get it. Wins don't come easy. You have to shed sweat and tears. There is definitely no I in team. Every single position in football is important. Every single one, from the center, to the kicker, to the offensive line. If the ball is not snapped correctly, the quarterback will not get it.

If the offensive line doesn't hold its blocks, our quarterback will be sacked, which means he can't hand the ball to the running back or pass it to the wide receiver for the touchdown. No one player is more special than the other. I like that. Lifelong friends. I've said it once and I'll say it again. There are no mamas like football mamas. They are the realest group of women I have ever met.

Is football safe for kids? - Harvard Health Blog - Harvard Health Publishing

Of course, I think it takes a special type of mama to let your child play tackle football anyway. None of them try to portray that picture perfect life. And they aren't afraid to say it. I have formed closer, stronger relationships with them than some of my friends that I have known for plus years. Football is family. We all look out for one another. Can't get your child to practice?