How to fight the virus that’s infecting youth sports

By Janis Meredith | Posted 1/24/2018

There’s a virus infecting youth sports. Do you see it?

Last week, there was a virus going around my city. My daughter was home from school (she’s a kindergarten teacher”) for 2 1/2 days because she caught the virus.

But viruses are not privy to bodies; sometimes they infect minds too. In fact, the attitudes and emotions of others are as contagious as any illness.

It might sound strange, but you can actually “catch” emotions like a virus — positive or negative emotions. Your emotional and chemical makeup can be downgraded when you hang out with the wrong kids of people.

RELATED CONTENT: What to look for in your kids’ sports drink

Research on sports teams has revealed that even when a team has an amazing win-loss, record the team can have a “depressed” outlook if certain emotionally expressive teammates are struggling or have terrible attitudes.

Youth sports has been infected by a virus, and the symptoms are many. They include pushy parenting behavior, coaches who are not making youth sports all about the kids, and companies who only see money when it comes to parents and kids in sports.

Sometimes doctors cannot pin down the exact name of the virus that infects a body, and the same is true for youth sports. There are many roots to the problem and I for one, do not know when it all started going awry. But the virus is there, and many are doubtful it will ever go away.

RELATED CONTENT: 8 youth sports myths that parents let their kids believe

Perhaps you feel as if you are fighting the virus, too, and it’s kind of like fighting a huge octopus. It has eight arms and you have two, so you are constantly feeling outmatched.

Maybe we’ve gone too far down the viral road and will never be fully back to where we’d like to be, where youth sports are totally all about kids having fun in empty lots and learning sports the organic way. But this is no time to fold up camp and go home. The battle is big, but there are ways to fight back.

Here’s my plan:

  • Recognize that it starts with YOU. As the old song goes, it only takes a spark to get a fire going. One person can influence another and then the team, then the league, then the community. Attitudes are contagious.
  • Be bold. Don’t be afraid to be different. Don’t get sucked into the culture that believes you must do things a certain way if your child is to succeed.
  • Stop buying into the con that you have to spend tons of money. You don’t. There are other ways to do things.
  • Let your child own it. It’s YOUTH sports, after all. Let children fight their own battles, choose the sports they want to play, push themselves to improve.
  • Stop zooming in. When you do that, you’re only focused on this quarter, this game, even this season. Zoom out: try to see the bigger picture of your child’s youth sports experience. What will matter in five, 10 or even 15 years?


These are the antidotes to the virus in youth sports. As you take medicine daily when you are sick, remind yourself of them daily. Consuming these truths are the only way you will stave off the virus.

Share your “medicine” with other sports parents and coaches. Your positivity is just as contagious as the negative voices that are making youth sports sick.

RELATED CONTENT: A quick guide to vitamins and supplements for athletes

Janis B. Meredith is a life coach for sports parents. She provides resources to help parents give their children a positive and growing youth sports experience. Learn more about how she can help parents have Less Stress and More Fun in Youth Sports.