Follow The School Model

Have you ever stood on the tee at a local charity golf event with trembling hands and a jack-hammering heart, fearing how ridiculous you would look swinging the club and never connecting with the ball?

Now think about a 6-year-old child with a bat in his hands in the local recreation program, struggling to put the bat on the ball while chants from the opposing team of “Hey, batter, batter … swing!” surround him.

His confidence fades with each swing and miss, in large part because no one ever taught him the basic fundamentals of the game.

He’s like you or me in a golf tournament -- we’re expected to know all the skills the game requires.

All About Preparation

Several years ago, the National Alliance for Youth Sports conducted a study of 1,100 kids ages 6 to 10 in the Cincinnati, Ohio, area, and found that a jaw-dropping 50 percent did not meet the minimum criteria to perform the necessary basic skills to play sports.

Apply the results of that study to kids in similar environments across the U.S. to figure about half the kids playing “Little League sports” simply don’t have the skills to feel any type of success.

So, is it any wonder today that so many kids quit sports before they have a chance to feel like they belong?

They are like those of us who haven’t picked up a golf club recently because we lack the confidence or motivation to play the game -- it entails a miserable afternoon of miss-hits, flubs and whiffs and a few unwanted comments from fellow competitors.

So why continue to force children to endure these same miserable scenarios simply because Mom or Dad signed them up? Why allow them to take the field for a sport like baseball that is played virtually the same way as it is at the Major League level without any pre-sport training? It’s crazy.

Most parents (and I’m no exception) are anxious for the day when their child has the opportunity to play organized sports. For some strange reason, most are enamored with the notion that the child just might be the best ballplayer in the neighborhood. We can’t help but think he or she is destined for a starting spot on the high school team, earning one of those coveted college scholarships, and maybe even going on to play professionally.

Yet, when we send kids to school, we take the exact opposite approach. We don’t expect them to pick up a book and solve complex math equations right away.

We take the time to prepare them.

It should be that way when it comes to sports, too.

Get It Started

Every recreation department should offer some type of “Head Start” program that teaches the basic skills as well as the confidence to perform them.

Schools have the right formula -- and it’s about time we followed their lead.

Only then can children reap the many benefits that sports have to offer.

Fred Engh is founder and CEO of the National Alliance for Youth Sports (NAYS) in West Palm Beach, Fla. He can be reached via e-mail at To join more than 3,000 communities by starting a NAYS chapter, visit or contact Emmy Martinez at or (800) 729-2057.

Bryan BuchkoComment