PRESSURE OF OVER PARENTING



Damon Harge is not your average kid. Instead, he is the most highly recruited pre-high school basketball player in the nation. He plays for the most prestigious under-14 basketball team in the US, and talent agents regularly claim he dominates at every Mid America Youth Basketball tournament he attends.

Damon’s ability to handle the ball gives him an edge over any other individual his age, and his strength is considered to be that of a blossoming high school athlete. Shooting with either hand, with accuracy from any range on the court making him extremely difficult to guard. Scouts consider his knowledge of the game to be his best asset. Overall, the only thing not allowing him to be perused by collegiate scouts is that Damon is only 11 years old.

So the question is how did he get so good? The simple answer is practice makes perfect. After a long day at school, Damon trains four hours a day doing several drills with his highly involved father. His regiment begins with a mile run and a quick cool down that consists of dribbling two balls around the court, a routine developed by his father. Damon then spends the next two hours doing vigorous cone drills also developed by his father. To finish off his practice for the day, 11 year old Damon shoots five hundred shots at various spots on the court. All this prepares Damon for his team responsibilities including long bus trips to various states and playing an average of 65 games in a single season. Needless to say, Damon truly lives and breaths basketball.

Damon’s type of training is clearly effective but is it ethical? Many are raising questions and have concerns about this type of intensive training. In their article, Elite Child Athletes: How much does victory cost? Heyward Nash illuminates the damaging effects that this sort of pressure can have on elite child athletes. But it is not just these elite athletes that struggle with this sort of “athletic over parenting” as well as the consequences of it. Individuals participating in recreational sports also can be effected by over parenting and the consequences that follow. In this case study, I summarize the theory of over parenting produced by Heyward Nash and break down the physical and psychological consequences their study suggests occur as a result of this sort of athletic over parenting. I then argue that their conclusions hold true not only for elite athletes, but also for athletes who play in much less public and high-profile arenas. To make this point, I analyze the life experiences of three athletes within my community at a large state university with Division I athletic status. I do this in order to highlight the effects of over parenting that is often left unstudied by society at large.

Heyward Nash in his article titled, Elite Child Athletes: How much does victory cost, has strong opinions on the increase of over parenting within the United States. Nash states that pressure from parents and coaches is forcing many elite child-athletes to strive for perfection. The pressure from the parents may be responsible for a host of physical and psychological ailments. Nash explains that this drive for being the best is fuelled by the monetary and social gains that come from being premier. The difference of being a premier athlete and an average athlete can have profound effects on the amount of money that the child makes. One study conducted by Nash showed that the top-ranked female tennis player earned more than $2 million, while the 50th ranked player made $45,000 and the 100th ranked player made $20,000 (Nash 3). This discrepancy between the different tiers can and will produce unhealthy reasoning for grueling training.

Coupled with grueling training and pressure for success, Nash looks to explain the damage that over parenting can have in two main categories. The first form of damage that comes from over parenting is physically trauma. Physical ailments have a range of severity; most common ailments are primarily stress related. Powered by several case studies and physician data, Nash states that children competing under pressure may display a host of physical ailments that run the gamut from headaches to stomach aches to muscle aches. Pains are manifestations of stress, and the bodies of children are pleading for help. Also, Nash explains that due to the pressure to succeed, some child athletes are withholding pain in order to continue to participate in their current sport. The withholding of pain can make the injury far worse than its original onset and can cause the child to experience long term effects. In addition, more severe physical trauma also occurs as Nash articulates his concern for the increase of Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD). RSD is a chronic pain disease that causes swelling, skin pigmentation changes, and potentially paralysis of a body part such as a leg or a foot (Mednet 3). It is classified as a Neuropathy (disease of the nerves), and can be attributed to the swelling of these nerves due to stress and overuse. One can only conclude that the increased stress for the pursuit of perfection is having damaging effects on the nerve tissue of the young athlete; a tangible and evident piece of physical trauma that can be credited to parents pushing their athlete too far.

Beyond physical trauma, Nash describes the second category of psychological trauma. Psychological effects from over parenting can be even more devastating to the child. The relationship between a parent and a child is fragile and unhealthy vehicles of affection are very evident in the world of competitive sports. The concept of “conditional love” creeps into the mind of the athlete due to the fact that better performance results in a happier and a more loving parent. Motivational lines such as “we must win” can give the child the sense that without winning there is no “we.” Furthermore, as the child gets older, the recognition by the elite athlete of others riding on their success can lead them to believe that the performance also gives them their relationships outside of the arena. In a specific case study, Nash describes that male and female track and field athletes realized early in high school that a college scholarship or a trip to the Olympic Games hinges on their performance. The pressure increases tremendously when the child athlete realizes that more and more people have invested something in them. The pressure being put on the elite athlete by investors is continually building, and manifests itself by the elite child athlete finding their self worth solely based on his/her athletic performance. Self worth that is rooted in something that is finite can easily be taken away, leaving the child in a vulnerable state. The psychological distress that occurs for elite child athletes can also be applied to athletes within my community.

Attending a University with 30,000 plus students, one is bound to meet several athletes. Through living and getting to know a select few of these athletes I have seen Nash’s theory within my everyday relationships. Two relationships specifically have given me the insight to the effects of over parenting. Through the mediums of individual interviews, I have seen both the physical and psychological damages that can occur when over parenting is seen in a parent to child relationship.

Physical damage is almost inevitable for an athlete, but physical damage due to pressure from parents is becoming ever more pervasive. Within my community, I have seen clear physical trauma. This physical trauma is a result of over parenting and is congruent with the theories that Nash has projected onto elite athletes. Kevin Cooney, a former Defensive End of the Colorado Buffaloes, has been an athlete from a very young age. Apart of competitive traveling teams’ since an age of 7 years old, Kevin has spent the majority of his life playing football. Highly recruited out of a small high school in west Arvada, there was high pressure at home to succeed. The son of a NFL defensive linemen, and the grandson of a long line of collegiate coaches; Kevin was under the impression that football was all there was. No longer playing organized sports, he finds himself still paying for years of physical play. Physical play within the confines of the game aside, he chose to articulate how the withholding of pain from parent and coach was embedded by unwritten rules. During a pee wee football Kevin was landed on by a large player hurting the upper region of his should. Kevin Cooney explains further in an interview how a fear of acknowledging his injury would result in the loss of playing time on his competitive middle school team. “I couldn’t even lift my arm above my head because it (shoulder) so hurt so bad, but that didn’t matter. I knew that if I complained or said something to my dad or the coaches, I would be sitting. Even if I was healthy again, I knew that they would see that as not having it (element of toughness).” (Interview 4/5/2011). At the age of 13 Kevin felt it was more important to push aside his pain, for the pursuit of success. He later on goes on to explain how pain was a part of the toughness that comes with being a football player, an ideal that was instilled by his coaches and parents. Similar to Nash’s theory, parents indirectly pressure their child to put sports and performance as their main priority. Still burdened with shoulder issues, Kevin has little mobility and strength anywhere above his right pectoral. Physical impingement can be long lasting when suffered during an early age .

Kevin’s coaches or parents would have never directly told him to withhold physical discomfort, but the pressure of success pushed him to this “withhold” logic. Kevin goes on to say that if anything were gained in his physical pain, he gain a mental toughness that he would not have had if the pressure were not there. The type of mental toughness that Kevin gained was also illuminated within Nash’s article as he talks about the delicate balance that parents must learn to find. Children learn and grow from competition, but there is a delicate balance between stress and distress. Given Kevin’s opinion on how he dealt with situations leads me to believe that the adults within his athletic career pushed him to a life of distress. This distress can be attributed to the psychological effects that come from over parenting.

Less tangible but equally detrimental the psychological damages of over parenting can be evident. As described by Nash, a pressured elite athlete can lead them to psychological problems between them and their parent. Just as Nash’s theory states, the thought of conditional love can creep into the thought processing of a child athlete. This can be seen by a former high school soccer stand-out Noah Drake. A talented athlete out of Golden, Colorado, Drake began playing soccer before “he could talk”. In an interview, Noah Drake talks about how he believed that his father’s love and time was contingent on his participation in sports. Drake illuminated the a conditional love dynamic by stating , “ The only real bonding times that me and my dad had where when we were driving to games. Because we (his traveling soccer team) had so many games in the summer, it was really the only alone time I had with him.” (Interview 4/5/2011). With the statement given by Drake, it is easy to see how the child may continue to play his or her sport to simply connect with their loved ones. The issue of conditional love can lead to burnout and a distain for their sport. Maybe the largest travesty of over parenting is the result of “burnout”. Burnout is the point at which a child has lost the love for his or her sport due to over use, pressure or rebellion. Pressure to participate and follow in kin footsteps is another reason for athletic burnout. Noah Drake also illuminated that most of the time in high school he didn’t want to play soccer, but because he felt pressured to follow in his father’s footsteps he played the entirety of high school. A first team all-state selection, Noah Drake was given the opportunity to play soccer at several universities. He chose not to participate in collegiate sports due to the fact that he developed a hate for the sport because of the social pressure from his dad. This robbing of talent and zeal is the direct effect of unhealthy parental pressure. This parental pressure can effect even further as some elite child athletes throw away their talent as simple rebellion to the adults riding their success. The desire to be an entity outside of a sport can result in an athlete throwing away an activity that they once loved.

Within my community it is evident to see how Nash’s theory effects far beyond elite athletes. The pressures that results from over parenting can affect even those that are participating in lower level fields of activity. The pressure from parenting can be seen in two different categories, physically and psychologically. By applying the theory of Nash, it is evident through the testimonies within my community that both categories of pressure damage are seen within even those that do not consider themselves to be elite athletes. This pressure is becoming something that must be addressed within our nation due to the fact that it is robbing children of what is innately enjoyable.

Children playing sports “for the love of the game” may sound like an overused cliché, but the statement has profound reasoning. Love for the sport should be the fundamental reason for child choosing their athletic path. To what extent that child takes their involvement in that sport should be self motivated and not contingent on any pressures placed on them by a parent or coach. Now equipped with the knowledge articulated by Nash and the personal understanding of how it affects my community, I state that child athletic s must once again fall back to its most fundamental elements for playing a sport for self enjoyment and/or physical activity. Parents or any other adult figure heads must forfeit any of their personal capitalization of their kid, and allow them to choose their level of participation within their sport. If children playing sports because of their desire to participate, I believe that this would irradiate any of the pressures (both mentally and physically) that the child athlete feels. Parents of child athletes must change their reasons for sport involvement, and this change must happen locally and nationally.

Within my community, I have seen a direct opposition of over parenting. Ryan Aweida is the founder of an organization that looks to eradicate the effect of burnout. His organization, Go Revolution, looks to regain the love for sports as a constructive child activity. Aweida and his team do this by opening time slots for children to come and play on their fields/courts. During this time, there is no coaching or any parent involvement. The children are simply told to play within the confines of the game, and respect one another. Aweida’s team is comprised of several retired athletes, and these individuals have started this program in hopes of changing the rate of child athletic burnout. On the point of child sport burnout, Aweida attributes it to sideline coaching and the political system that comes with competitive sports. A high school soccer All-American, Aweida explains that his love for soccer was destroyed by the politics of sports and the business like mentality of coaches. Declining a full ride scholarship to Denver University for soccer, Ryan has given his talents and time in hopes to give elite athletes the opportunity to play soccer without the capitalization of the sport. The organization is stationed in Broomfield, Colorado and has been thriving for over a year, and now looks to expand.

The success of Go revolution is evidently clear, and this success comes through principles that were illuminated by Nash. However, as shown in this case study, the damaging effects of the pressures felt by elite child athletes may also be applied to normal child athletes. For this reason, I conclude by saying that outreaches such as Go revolution must become the dominating force throughout our country if we are to protect the fundamental enjoyment of sports. Sports will always be a part of a culture’s identity, and if they are manipulated and capitalized, they lose the intrinsic value. Furthermore, by protecting the fundamental principles of sports, we protect the children that play them.


FOCUS: I am choosing a community of people not a certain individual


FOUNDATIONAL ARTICLE: Elite Child Atheles: How much does victory cost? by Heyward L. Nash



*Subject: Exploitation of Child Athletes for capitla gain

* Who: The body/talents of child star athletes

*Source: Elite Child Atheles: How much does victory cost? by Heyward L. Nash

* Analytical Approaches and theories of Embodiment: Individuals use parental power, skill set power and/or investment power to manipulate a young athlete for their own benefit.
* How will I illuminate reader: Elite athletes are being pushed to unethical limits for the capital/social gain for parents, coaches, boosters or investors.
* Frame you case study in the form of a question: How have child sports become a vehicle for capital gain?

*Outlineà Introduction
-identify my subject who is specifically child star athletes, but indirectly the effect that these parents, coaches and other individuals have on the child.
- I hope to mirror the theory that Nash has stated. The theory given by Nash is that child sports have been created into a vehicle for capital gain and have lost sight of the physical, emotional and adolescent health of the child athlete. This vehicle has been created through the abuse of the parental power, coaching power and investment power of those manipulating the child athlete.
-I would like to restrict this article to the relationship between child and others that results in capital or social gain.
à I would like to break this topic into two smaller branches of thought. First the creation of this new vehicle of capital. SECOND, the effect that this vehicle has on the child’s health.
-THESIS: Elite Child athletes are becoming vehicles for capital and social gain by individuals that abuse their significant role as a parent, coach or financial investor.



PART 1











THESIS #2: Due to the new vehicle that has been created by those in control of the elite child athlete; the physical, emotional and adolescent health of the child is being compromised.

PART 2












Concluding Paragraphs:
Synchronization of the two thoughts and the future implications that are going to persist if there is little or no change.





OTHER HELPFUL RESOURCES FOUND BELOW:


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This will get us straight to the Journal--> http://irs.sagepub.com/content/35/2/131.full.pdf+html




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--> Sport in Society.pdf





11) Harvey, Jean. "Sport and Social Capital." Blackwell Encyclopedia of Sociology. Ritzer, George (ed). Blackwell Publishing, 2007. Blackwell Reference Online. 31 January 2011 <http://www.blackwellreference.com/subscriber/tocnode?id=g9781405124331_chunk_g978140512433125_ss1-236>






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19) "Jaylin Fleming: The Best 10-Year-Old Basketball Player In The Country?" Breaking News and Opinion on The Huffington Post. Web. 31 Jan. 2011. <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/03/31/jaylin-fleming-the-best-1_n_519965.html>.




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--> page 219-221 are the important ones.




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22) "8th Grade Is Too Late: Recruiting Begins Much Earlier | Bleacher Report." Bleacher Report | Entertaining Sports News, Photos and Slideshows. Web. 31 Jan. 2011. <http://bleacherreport.com/articles/21571-8th-grade-is-too-late-recruiting-begins-much-earlier>.




<iframe title="YouTube video player" class="youtube-player" type="text/html" width="480" height="390" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/BIqVvRh_cEY" frameborder="0" allowFullScreen></iframe>

--> video is fun but the most important part is that the kid can run a 4:15 in the mile. A World record for any child under 15, but the surprising part is that he is only 20 seconds away from the mens world record. He is 11!!!! HOW MUCH IS THIS KID WORTH??? sounds sad, but someone has to ask it. I know the NBA and team USA are asking it.




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27) Cliff, LeBlank (2011) "The Embodiment of a Soldier Dies" www.thesunnews.com/2011/01/08/1909219/embodiment-of-a-soldier-dies.html