"The Cheers and the Tears" by Shane Murphy, Ph.D.
In "The Cheers and the Tears" Dr. Murphy portrays the double nature of youth sports by drawing on his personal love-hate sentiments toward highly competitive sport programs for children. Murphy follows the path of some of the earliest youth sports programs in the US that were formed in the 1930s (e.g., YMCA, Pop-Warner football, and Little League baseball) to the current "all-star" tournaments for children in a wide variety of competitive sports. It is not the out-of-control, emotionally and physically abusive parents that are to blame for the high drop out rates in youth sports programs. Rather, it is the highly competitive programs that are responsible for bringing out the worst of the involved adults, causing them to fail to realize that children's needs come first.
Most parents get involved because they believe their child will benefit from the little league experience. The parents' love and care for their child combined with the culturally accepted public expression of emotions in sport settings result in a highly passionate involvement with youth sports. The feelings of not spending adequate "quality time" with one's child combined with their growing personal involvement with the league drive many unsuspecting parents into the little league "parenting trap." To avoid the "trap" Murphy suggests that parents first evaluate a youth sport program before joining. Parents may even start new programs that better address both parent's and child's needs. Programs that embrace a philosophy of informal sports and allow children to play by their own rules and frequently change teams, according to Murphy, are contributing to higher equality and excitement.
Murphy's "The Cheers and the Tears" is a great resource for coaches and parents that want their child to have a positive, life-long sport participation experience.
Dr. Shane Murphy is a sport psychologist and president of the Division of Exercise and Sport Psychology of the American Psychological Association. He is also the former head of the sport psychology program for the United States Olympic Committee. As a five year old boy he had his first youth sport experience. At age sixteen he begun to coach junior football and has ever since been involved in coaching at youth sports programs. Murphy has two children that participate in youth sport programs. He is also the author of Sport Psychology Intervention, and The Achievement Zone.
Murphy, S. (1999). The cheers and the tears. San Francisco, CA: Jossey Bass.
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