Stress vs Passion in Youth Sports

Trisha Stevens Lamb

If you are on social media you have probably seen the articles making their rounds regarding “The Race to Nowhere in Youth Sports”. In case you haven’t, here’s a quick excerpt from the one that is continually showing up in my Facebook feed:
“So goes the all too common narrative for American youth these days, an adult driven, hyper competitive race to the top in both academics and athletics that serves the needs of the adults, but rarely the kids. As movies such as “The Race to Nowhere” and recent articles such as this one from the Washington Post point out, while the race has a few winners, the course is littered with the scarred psyches of its participants.” (
While I definitely agree that in some instances youth sports has escalated to the point of harm, I argue that there is still tremendous value participating in athletic activities even to the point of tired and overscheduled kids. Even a crazy, busy, sports schedule is better than the alternative of spending the average 7.5 hours a day in front of a screen – not to mentioned the multitude of proven benefits of participating in youth sports. (Children now spend more than seven and a half hours a day in front of a screen (e.g., TV, videogames, computer)
So where’s the balance? The balance can come from us parents removing ourselves completely from the equation (outside of taxi driver, benefactor, and the occasional rebounder/catcher/BPer when ASKED!). Looking back on my own athletic career, one thing’s for sure, I was the complete and total “owner” of my athletic career. My parents were incredibly supportive but the number of times I heard from them “Why don’t you go work on your jump shot?”, “Why don’t you play harder”, “You need to (______)”, was ZERO! In fact the only comment my Mom would make after each game (no matter how well or awful I played) was, “You looked so beautiful out there!”
Somehow my parents (who were never competitive athletes – unless you count being OSU’s Bucky Beaver) knew that without intrinsic motivation the best you can hope for is mediocrity so they put 100% faith in me to pick my passions and orchestrate my own plan to reach my own goals. As a nowhere near perfect sport’s parent, I find this such a relief—if I have to push my kids to excel; it’s just not going to make a difference except stress both of us out. The other thing my parents must have known is that “working hard for things you don’t care about is called STRESS, working hard for things you love is called PASSION”. I never minded being tired and overscheduled because it was my, not my parent’s, PASSION!

Trish is the current director of the Boise State Career Track MBA program. Here are a few of Trish’s accomplishments inside the athletic arena: 3 x Oregonian High School Basketball Player of the Year, 4 x Oregonian All-state Basketball Team, 4 x Oregon High Jump State Champion, 3 x Oregonian All-state Volleyball Team, Co-captain and leading scorer of the Stanford Basketball National Championship team, Stanford Athletics Hall of Fame Inductee, Former Boise State Head Basketball Coach, mother of 3 incredibly busy and active but hopefully not too stressed kids.


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