Professional Opinions

Here are statements from professionals in the field of physical education, physical activity, and organized sports.

"As an Elementary School Physical Education teacher for the past 35 years I have seen my students activity levels and fitness performance dwindle.  Elementary age children need to play, experience the world and explore the things they enjoy. Very few get the opportunity to play a variety of sports activities outside of PE classes, yet it is their favorite class. Children who participate in recreational sports get such a short time to play before they are being asked to "try out" for select teams as early as age 10, What is wrong here? We are eliminating kids! By age 14 there are very few, if any opportunities for those that didn't make the cuts. If our focus is to reach all kids and provide them with opportunities to stay active,  it makes more sense to put our $ into  intra-mural sports and activities at the middle and high school levels that is inclusive of all our kids!"

Elementary Physical Education Teacher

Tumwater, WA

Elaine Gilmour

My experience in this area is in receiving young athletes into our program for various backgrounds and experiences, and as the father of a ten year old who is actively participating in both competitive soccer and basketball.  My encouragement for parents is to make sure as the kids get older they have a voice and say in their activities.  Fields and courts seem to be littered with kids that have a much smaller interest in the sport than their parents in the stands.  It is not about the sports the parents enjoy, but rather respecting the wishes of athletes who are growing up and are perfectly capable of prioritizing their own interests and desires.  It is easy to tell a 5, 6, or 7 year old where they need to be and what they should be doing.  However, as they get older they will develop (hopefully) their own preferences and should be comfortable voicing them to their parents.

High School Teacher and Coach

Tumwater, WA

Jeff Gallagher

"Children and young adults should turn out for 2 or more sports each year.  This exposes them to different competition strategies, physical and emotional demands, and coaching styles .  Doing so will help them develop into well rounded adults who can be compassionate in victory, courageous in defeat, and always humble." 

High School Physical Education Teacher and Coach

Lacey, WA

Jack Zilla 

"Today’s youth in sports face a growing problem that’s become a major problem not just in youth sports but has become a growing issue in collegiate sports.  Parents.  Instead of allowing coaches to coach parents have inserted themselves beyond  second guessing with friends but to the level of going to Athletic Directors or Presidents to voice their displeasure.  Let coaches coach."   

Collegiate Athletic Director

Lacey, WA

Bob Grisham

“The important thing is that kids move and have fun.  This can take many forms: competitive or recreational sports, school sports, family activities (hiking, biking, kayaking, skiing…) or just playing in the yard.  The pressure to succeed on all levels these days is intense. Some kids thrive on that, many do not.  Do not live vicariously through your kids.  Be proud of their accomplishments, and let them grow as they choose through movement.”

Middle School Physical Education Teacher and Coach

Tumwater, WA

Jennifer Hyer

"I’m a proud physical educator. I am former coach. I am a wife, daughter, sister, aunt, and mom. I AM FIT! I AM HEALTHY! I care about my physical, mental, and social well-being. And guess what? I really care about those things for my family, students, and friends. What I have learned and continue to learn growing up in a very active family, playing sports as a kid and adult, the classes I took in PE and the classes I continue to take online, health clubs, or at PE workshops are LIFE BENEFITTING values, skills, and behaviors that I have and will continue to embrace to be my best self. And these values, skills, and behaviors are what I teach, coach, and parent today.

 

As a PE teacher, I have seen activities come and go, changes in concepts and philosophies but having kids find time each day to move, enjoy movement, and make connections with their mental health, academics, and quality of life has been the foundation, and will continue to be.

 

Has PE changed from when I was a student? Absolutely. And it continues to change. Laws, budgets, curriculum, and requirements change. PE is constantly being poked at. I strongly believe every child in our country should be enrolled in a PE class, every single day. It should be taught by professionals.

 

As a PE teacher, former coach, and parent I have concerns with sports, the environment, and the emphasis. Sports should not replace PE. And sports should be an extension of the classroom and encourage a love of the game, sportspersonship, training is safe and appropriate, and to nurture and encourage healthy competition, personal goals, and cooperation. I worry that the athletic environment cultivates burnout, aggression, winning is everything, and making it unattainable or unaffordable for many. Sports should be equitable. The past 20 years I have seen an increase in sport specializing, year-round training, tournaments, travel, and an increase in costs, fees, and gear. I have also witnessed an increase in disturbing and questionable fan-parent-behavior, athlete burnout, focus on playing in college, and unrealistic athletic ambitions from all stakeholders.

 

It comes down to this for me as a parent. Frankie, “Did you get your heart health, brain health on today?” If she answers yes, I am satisfied. I hold no value if she is the greatest, most skilled, fastest, etc. I want her to be healthy, happy, smart, and fit. Because of her daily commitment to move, acquired from PE, sports she chooses to participate in, or the activities we choose to enjoy as a family."

High School Physical Education Teacher

Tumwater, WA

Lisa Summers 

"To me the most important takeaways from sports are the physical activity, the bonds you share with your teammates and the learning to lose, as well as learning to win.  I would always encourage parents to encourage their children to play many different sports in a fun, recreational setting.  A few byproducts of playing a variety of sports and having a variety of coaches, is that you end up with a great mix of teammates, you learn to thrive with many different communication styles and you learn to struggle in a sport that may not be the one you are best at.  Later in life, you may not get the job you applied for, you may not get accepted into the school you applied for or you may get denied by the girl you want to date.  Losing and struggling in sports teaches you that things aren’t always going to go your way, and sometimes you need to dust yourself off, learn and try again."

Recreation Director 

Olympia, WA

Tad Earley 

My participation in organized sports probably saved my life. As a 8th grader heading in the wrong direction, my involvement with  freshmen football gave me an arena to work out my teenage angst, and figure out that recognition and achievement are gained through commitment to something bigger than yourself. I can’t imagine who I would be today if I had not learned those life lessons.

High School Teacher and Coach

Lacey, WA

Eric Snelson

"At some point, a lot of coaches and parents of youth recreational leagues should stop worrying about wins and championships and try to enjoy the practices/games as much as the kids while teaching fundamentals of the sport. Unfortunately, many coaches or parents can suck the fun right out of the environment. Yelling from the sidelines, bleachers or stands, “THAT’S A FOUL!, THROW YOUR FLAG!!, or C’MON WAKE UP!!! etc.” only diminishes the enjoyment from those actually on the court/field performing the activity. Not to mention can destroy a young player’s or official’s potential . And worse, the kids start emulating that behavior. I was talking to a colleague the other day and it appears (to us two anyway) that there’s an improved positive cultural shift going on in several High School and College sports programs regarding coaching, player development and parent influence. Youth Rec programs… not so much."

Recreation Supervisor

Olympia, WA

Jeff Johnson

"The dopamine drip that I get from physical activity has propelled me to a lifetime of personal fitness and health." This is the first thing that came to me when I read your topics. So many kids' are getting that drip from social media and and it is affecting their overall health. The message is put down the phone and go workout!!!

High School Physical Education Teacher

Ellensburg, WA

Brian Hagbo

We see the health benefits of physical activity on a daily basis in Parks & Recreation.  Data as of February 2019 from the Washington State Recreation and Conservation office states that $106 million dollars would be saved annually by getting more Washingtonians active & outdoors!  Some of the health benefits of physical activity through parks and recreation are; less obesity, improved sleep, less stress, quality family time, smoother recovery from surgery & heart attack, clearer thinking, lower blood pressure, improved immune functioning, reduced ADHD, reduced depression, less anxiety and increased happiness.

Recreation Director

Lacey, WA

Jen Burbidge

"My advice to parents as hard as it is, is to let their child's experience be their own.  There will be tears, confusion, body soreness, missed opportunity, poor communication, tiredness, failed friendships, late nights, and early mornings.  Parents jobs are to support the child by setting the alarm, driving them to practice, buying the flower baskets, running the concessions, and cheering (not coaching or officiating) in the stands.  Don't allow the amount of playing time given be the outcome measure of a positive athletic experience.  Parents need to fight every urge to invade the personal experience of the student.  The child learning how to handle success and failure is still the greatest measure of a quality athletic experience."

High School Athletic Director

Olympia, WA

Bob Kickner

"Recreation is an essential part of all our lives and within our communities. From play, to exercise, to sports and teamwork, humans require these aspects to be balanced and well-rounded individuals. Kids are introduced and taught these essential life lessons through recreational sports. They are given opportunity to explore different sports and learn the essentials of teamwork and fitness. These key components help to develop productive and healthy individuals within our communities. Please take the time to enjoy the benefits of recreation with your family".

Recreation Director

Tumwater, WA

Charlie Groth

"Parents, if you want your child to earn a college scholarship have them go to the library, SAT prep classes, read, read and more reading.  Your best bet is to have  your child play MULTIPLE sports. Specializing all year on the same sport is going to cause burnout, overuse injuries and takes the enjoyment out of it. The research is clear that kids play sports because it is FUN for them.  It is fun when kids are allowed the chance to learn new activities and experience different coaches and teammates; not just the same coach all year for years and years and years.  Remember that club programs are 'for profit' and exist to earn money for the organization and coaches.  Athletic scholarships are rare; especially full rides.  There is a lot more money in academic type of scholarship and other non athletic scholarships.  I would also advocate for parents to stay away from youth TACKLE football as long as possible- In short...release your child to the game."

High School Physical Education Teacher and Coach

Tumwater, WA

Greg Bert

"Students need to be engaged with their community or school. Athletics and activities are a fantastic opportunity for young people to connect with their peers and adults in their community. It is a very affordable (even free for many) to provide a safe and positive place for young people to be supervised and develop through their adolescence. The data supports that students are more successful academically, attendance, and discipline areas when involved in co-curricular activities."

High School Athletic Director

Lacey, WA

Gary Larson

Recreational and competitive sports provide opportunities for youth to develop life skills.  And while there are other ways to develop those skills, when done properly youth are able to flourish in a sports setting.  The key is to be surrounded by supportive parents/families and coaches that genuinely put the development of the child as the priority over winning and losing.  In addition, parents need to observe their child to make sure they are experience joy along with the development.  Forcing a child to participate because the parent loves the sport or feels their child is gifted usually results in the kid walking away from the activity at an early age.  I have always told both of my girls, “I don’t care what you do, just find something healthy that you can be passionate about”.

 

As far as “balance”.  Encourage young athletes to participate in multiple sports and to try new sports as much as possible.  There are a variety of reasons why this is healthy and not enough space to respond to that topic in a short response. In the end,  the diversity of experiences will build stability for the child.

Parks, Arts and Recreation Associate Director

Olympia, WA

Scott River

"Here are some of the reasons why students should be involved in High School Athletics:

  • Sports boost self-esteem

  • Playing sports helps develop teamwork and leadership skills

  • It’s a natural stress reliever

  • Kids develop lifelong healthy lifestyle habits

  • It’s fun!

  • Companionship and friendship

  • Learning how to lose

  • Learning discipline and respect for authority

  • Developing persistence, dedication, and patience

  • Sports as a mood-enhancer

  • Body composition and weight

  • Building a healthy heart

  • Strengthening the bones

  • Building a healthy adult

All of these things are learned through participation in sport. The lifelong experiences that students obtain, the memories with friends that they grow up with, and the healthy lifestyle that goes with participation in sport.

These are all arguments and reasons for participation that have been around for decades, but the children of today deal with specialization, time management, and overuse issues daily. Pride in your community, school and in oneself are also important traits of participation. Whether you win or lose, these lessons are taught."

High School Althletic Director

Tumwater, WA

Don Farler

My response to navigating organized sports, both from my perspective as a parent of kids who play sports and as a parks and recreation professional, is to be patient.  Parents wants to rush the process.  They want their 2nd grader to play up in a 4th grade league because it’s better competition.  Give me a break, your kid can’t event tie his own shoe.  Let kids fail, let them learn on their own, let them dominate.  If your kid is going to excel in sports they will because they love the sport(s) and want to be great.  At some point kids grow up, make their own decisions and choose their own path.  Support them, advocate for them, and encourage them but ultimately your job as a parent is to make sure they have fun and love whatever game(s) they choose to play.

Recreation Director

Ellensburg, WA

Brad Case

“The thing I would speak to parents about is to avoid sport specialization and allow your children to experience multiple sports and to makes sure they take time off of sports to simply have some fun.  Fore example, maybe a camp or two in the summer, but then let your kids be kids the rest of the summer!”

Professor of Athletic Administration 

Ellensburg, WA

Rory Weishaar

Students should be exposed to as many healthy physical activities and sports as possible at a young age. As they become older and learn more about themselves, they can dive into more specific and intentional physical activity and sport. Not only does participation in sports teach and train multiple movement concepts and skills that can lead to well rounded physical fitness, but it also facilitates mental, emotional, and social growth of a young person. Healthy and successful participation in organized sports are a result of enthusiastic support for the athlete from the family unit and driven by the goals and desires of the athlete, not the parent(s).

 High School Athletic Director 

Ellensburg, WA

Cole Kanyer

"To me physical activity and sports are a simple, healthy way of living that builds some of the strongest skills you will need in the game of life. Teamwork and problem-solving are among the best skills that an athlete deals with each time they step on the court or field and will continue to see in their everyday lives. While engaging in these sports, athletes are able to be physically active, which is something they might not receive in their everyday lives. In a world with so many screens/technology surrounding us, turning us into zombies, sports removes us from that and throws us outside to our communities making us connect with those around us, creating better relationships with friends and families."

High School Teacher and Coach

Vancouver, WA

Nick Daltoso

For those parents who are thinking about getting their students involved with sports or who want to develop their children physically, I would say do it!  The benefits of physical activity and playing organized sports far outweigh the negatives and their child will learn valuable lessons along the way.  Not only are there the physical benefits such as reducing disease risks, losing weight, building both muscular and aerobic endurance, having stronger bones, increased muscle mass, flexibility, and an enhanced mood, but there are other valuable life lessons such as learning cooperation, sportsmanship, teamwork and setting goals and working to achieve them.

Middle School Physical Education Teacher and Coach

Kirkland, WA

Michael Minerich

If you are a professional in the field of physical activity, physical education, or organized sports and wish to submit a statement for this page please email the webpage at 

kidsneedbalance@gmail.com