Youth Sports Frustration



Youth Sports and coaches

Chime in…


Be sure to add your thoughts to the comments section.


Debbie Schwarm:

I would LOVE to come to the IYCA Summit because I am a parent who cannot find an avenue to gain any traction on promoting proper coaching in our area.


I have approached coaches and subsequently left clubs, attempted to get the Positive Coaching Alliance involved in a club whose president now avoids me and any correspondance at all costs, and approached the state and national youth soccer associations about proper training for kids who refuse to openly address the issue.


I have prepared a complaint for small claims court to obtain $1200 in club fees when we left a club who supported a coach who had my then 11-year-old running a mile until he fell over and vomited having never run for training purposes in his life (and found out that he shouldn’t be at this age).


We found a small starter club with excellent coaches who finally acquiesced to the pressures of the authoritative organizations who were obviously in a political battle with this group who did not “play their game.”


I even have my family wondering why I have to cause so much trouble. Why?

Because no one is going to be allowed to ruin my son’s love for youth sports soccer OR his physical well being 1 more time!


I have read and researched hundreds and hundreds of articles as well as read Brian’s daily emails. I’m FURIOUS about this!!



Dr. Kwame Brown:

Thank you so much for sharing this. I think that there are those who often fail to understand how damaging this "control" and "pain" philosophy can be in youth sports. We are slowly ripping youth sports away from kids and making it about what we want for them. We also have bitten so hard on to the so called "survival of the fittest" thing that we think competition is the only way to be healthy. There is also enjoyment, cooperation and understanding. Those things are just as important to a human’s life and survival as competition.


I applaud and am inspired by your effort and your tenacity here. I often say at the end of my talks that the responsibility is ours. When we see something that flies inthe face of everything we know is healthy for children, we must speak up. We must take action. You are doing so. The IYCA will help you in any way we can to bring about change for the better in your community. To wit, I would love to hear privately some more details about your issue, the organization you are referring to.


I will finally counsel you to breathe deeply through your fury to find understanding. It will be far more useful to figure out why this organization is behaving the way it is to focus your "attack". Have you thought about going to the media? Youth sports, and hypercompetitiveness has actually been a hot topic. If you can tie this in with overuse injury, you may get some "play" from the news organizations. We have a lot of information on our member site about how to put together press releases. Brian and Pat are both masters at this.


We look forward to speaking with you to further your aims, and most importantly, to better your son’s play experience. It is my hope that through strength in numbers, our organization can gain some traction.


What do you think?


21 Responses

  1. Erik Witt says:

    I also believe that too many coaches adhere to the “survival of the fittest” mentality. If one of their kids makes many of the plays on the field (talking about football) and is also the go to kid for the touchdowns, people WILL say “what a great coach he is.” What they don’t see is the wreckage left in the wake of that one child who happened to not get hurt and actually excel in spite of the coach. Perception is reality for many of the parents of these kids. They use that one kid as an axample of how good the coach is so he is supported in hopes that they could do the same for their own child.
    This is the same coach who I asked during the 3rd day of practice “where were all of the 8th graders?” He replied and absolutely beamed when he told me “They were in the weight room seeing how many times they could do a 100 pound bench press!” When questioned about why he was doing that and other very questionable practices related to warmups and the numerous sprints, he said that “that is what the pros and college athletes are doing so we are going to do the same.”
    I manages to get the 7th graders under my wing while he continued to damage the 5th, 6th,and 8th graders the rest of the season. It’s kinda funny how only 1/2 of the 8th graders practiced and played during the last week of the season. Funny.
    Oh yes, about the soccer club…go for it. It is never libel or slander if you speak the truth. Question everything! Your own methods/traiining as well as those you seek to “correct.” If you don’t, you will surely be asked the same of you. Be prepared.
    Ok, I feel better now. 🙂 See you in Louisville.

  2. Dick Borkowski says:

    Well done! I have enjoyed reading your material over the years. As I former athletic director (33 years), coach and presently a sport and recreation safety consultant (39 years) I can say you and your staff offer sound advice

    Keep it up. Youth sport administration and coaching IS getting better and better because of organizations such as yours. Well done.

  3. Jimmy Lamour says:

    It is sad how far youth sports has gone away from what I believe the original purpose for which it was created. Sports is supposed to be fun and encourage kids to continue a healthy lifestyle well into their adulthood. It amazes me that more qualified fitness coaches are not reaching the kids at the ages where it makes the biggest difference. This is one reason I became a Youth Fitness Specialist. It will take one coach at a time helping to change one community at a time.


  4. Roby Stahl says:

    I feel for you. Sometimes in soccer we find that coaches tend to train teams the way they were coached or sometimes do so out of not knowing what to do. This is why US Soccer holds coaching courses. In our club it is mandated that all coaches have to attend coaching courses, different level licenses as the players get older. You will find a club that suits the needs of your child. What city are you in and I can help?

  5. Paul Halford says:

    As a Director of coaching for a State soccer association I would certainly like to hear from this lady.
    This is not what we are teaching at the coaching schools, the practice and games should be fun and the practice should be in a game like format and should not include senseless laps around a field.

    Look forward to hear from the lady if possible

  6. Andrew Eaton says:

    Brian, Debbie is exactly the type of committed, passionate individual that embodies what the IYCA mission is all about. For what it’s worth, she has my vote to be awarded the free tickets to the Summit.

  7. Kwame makes a great point referring to the adults who are attempting to make sports what they want for the kids instead of what is best for the kids.

    Many adults have lost all perspective when it comes to youth sports. Some are the parents on the sideline, making life miserable for the volunteer coaches or even paid coaches, and others are, unfortunately, in charge of and responsible for coaching kids.

    I suspect there are a wide array of reasons for people losing perspective, but the bottom line is adults have a responsibility to teach children in a positive, healthy manner, not relive their own lives through them or project their personal frustrations upon them.

    The upside is there are a great deal of adults who are creating a positive environment around kids and their athletics. These coaches should be recognized for their efforts, if it is appropriate, and applauded for their effort and proper perspective.

  8. Dr. Kwame M Brown says:

    Bill, GREAT comment, and GREAT reminder. We often think in terms of policing bad actions. But encouraging positive action is, over time, far more effective. Sometimes we have to police, but we should probably spend a greater majority of our time encouraging the positive and educating the negative.

    Isn’t this what we ask of our kids?

    Once again, thanks for putting this reminder into the debate! You just earned your keep 😉

  9. Joe says:

    We should balance out the blame and share in the responsibility. Yes, I agree that starting an 11 year old at running a mile right out of the gates is too much. I find myself asking, What was this kid doing to be fit and healthy before he joined this first team? What action did the parent take to prepare the child to enter competitive sports. How much play time did and does this child get daily? Does the kid have PE daily in school? We all share in the blame. The best advice is to continue and promote education and cooperation in regards to child health and fitness development, not spending time in court. It sounds as if mom has learned a lot on the subject and can be a great advocate for the cause.

  10. Dave Gleason says:

    I am fired up beyond my normal feeling of wanting to rant against what we are fighting everyday as IYCA members and coaches. I my heart goes out to this family and this community.

    Thank you for sharing this and please let me know how I can help!

    Keep fighting the good fight!


  11. Rob Esposito says:

    It is a shame that we as adults push kids through this kind of work at such a young age… To openly communicate our feelings as adults is easier then it is for a child who just wants to impress his/her coach… Problem is a lot of circumstances see kids giving up too early when faced with a challenge due to parental or other environmental histories… Where it has been burned into a child’s head that it is OK to quit… This fine line takes not only a well rounded coach but a person that takes into consideration all aspects of what creates these attitudes… Attitudes which also involve a child pushing him/herself to that point….

  12. Dale Speckman says:

    I can’t tell you how many times someone drops their kid off to me and says “run the crap out of them coach” and I always say “this is not a boot camp this is an educational camp”. It is not our job as youth specialists to whip kids into shape. Our responsilbillty is to educate our youthful students on how to be a better mover! How to stay safe on the field and court. How to be more effecient. Bill, is absolutely correct many of the parents are part of the problem. We need to make sure we don’t give in to those parental pressures. The IYCA has taught me to do just that!

  13. Tim says:

    I have seen your situation too many times in my 30 years as a coach. Coaches with no training and/or no formal education on how to “coach” young people, their only qualification is that they “play the game”. These coaches lack training is magnified by the reason they are coaching which is to push their kid to the front. Give their kid the opportunities to succeed or fail, while every other kid is denied opportunities to succeed or fail. Is that not one reason why sports are so wonderful, kids get those opportunity with immediate feed back. Then the coaches’’ roll should be then guide them through the experience. I applauded you for fighting the “club system” to make have a healthier athletic situation for you child. The problem we have is it is not only in the “club system” but also in our schools. Where you would hope that coaches have the training to develop an athletic culture, which let kids experience the results of their dedication and preparation. As schools we settle for a coach who has played the game and don’t train them to have the tools necessary to develop a successful program. Of course this is not the always the case. There are great program out there. It is just getting tougher to find them. Keep up the good fight… IYCA is a great program

  14. Kelly Russell says:

    I’m sorry but one piece of the scenario sounds a bit strange to me. Of course, no one would agree that’s it acceptable to have a child run hard enough to make him vomit, but maybe we don’t see the whole picture to this. Did the coach know the child was in distress when the team was running. Maybe it was an initial run to see their fitness level. I don’t know but it seems to me that most 11 year olds should be able to run a mile without such distress. Our local elementary school has every kid run or walk a mile every other day in gym class. I know that this may sound a little harsh but as a soccer coach myself who has been through several licensing courses through US youth soccer, (which I believe should be the standard for all youth sports) sometimes there are severe cases of “helicopter” parenting out there.

  15. Bill says:

    I am not trying to be the voice of dissent or inflammatory here BUT I hope this parent’s intentions and actions are warranted But I can’t say for sure I have only heard one side of the arguement. Having coached youth sports for over 25 years as both a coach and trainer and league administrator I can definitely say that the trend recently has been for some parents(not neccesarily in this case) are often as much of the problem as problem coaches. Thus the new term helicopter parenting. It is amazing how normally sane people become crazy when it comes to their kids and athletics. I am a believer in the positive coaches alliance and most of the teachings of Brian Grasso and his colleagues at the IYCA. I do not consider myself an old school coach as I believe I am still learning which Is why I follow the IYCA’s material with great passion. I am just saying lets not throw a coach under the bus since we only have one side of the story.

  16. george maoury says:

    Welcome to the world of Youth Sports people. I agree with Jimmy it will take one coach at a time to change this ridiculous epidemic that we are facing. In Charlotte this is standard. Kids of all ages and all sports are running 2-3 miles before practices. Why????? Also they like to tell highschool football players that they need to bench “X” amount for so many reps because that is what an athlete playing their position is “suppose” to do. I’m not sure what it’s like in other parts of the country, but here in Charlotte, NC. It has gotten bad. Don’t know what it is going to take for parents and coaches to wake up!!!!!! In fact if you walk into any physical therapy or sports medicine facility in Charlotte you will fine that 80% of all of their patients are youth. That is pretty sad. I’ll keep truckin’ along and maybe one day I will have made a big enough impact to help the kids in the Charlotte community.

  17. Dr. Kwame M Brown says:

    I agree with the sentiments of those expressing a desire to know more before condemning this coach. This is why Brian and I are talking to her to get more information.

    And believe me, I can’t stand helicopter parenting. I tell parents all the time before they register for my programs that sometimes kids get bumps and bruises, and even cry out of frustration once in a while.

    But, if kids are in distress, coaches should notice. If a coach DIDN’T notice this, I have a huge problem. Coach the kids in front of you, not your expectations.

    Again, if this is an overreaction, we will find out and take no action. But my thing is with the larger issue. And yes, I speak to both parents and coaches, and yes I have changed some hearts and minds. We will continue to work for understanding.

  18. Dustin Winnekens says:

    As a father of two boys that love sports I look forward to clashing with coaches if the time ever comes because I have been a competitive strength athlete for the past ten years.
    I don’t know everything about training but enough to compete in powerlifting, strongman and bodybuilding competition in the same year and achieve wins in all three.
    My boys know that they have to work hard to win, BUT they also are told daily you must enjoy what you do. If you do not enjoy it then something is wrong. Especially if you originally enjoyed that activity.
    Coaches (majority, and not all) have a superiority complex. I know coaches that have me call them coach! Ah no you’re not my coach! I would be interested to know if any studies have been performed in the world of coaching psychology? How does this change a person’s mind set once given the grand blessing?
    I feel for this parent because I have heard it more times than I care to count. I like the media idea because nothing gets to the ego of a coach quicker than bad publicity.
    It is a battle that I enjoy fighting because the future coaches are suiting up Friday nights. Changing them now will change the future of athletics. Getting more professors teaching this in the colleges would help, and I think the movement needs to start there. Getting into the psychology of coaching, and how to work with youth athletes must be addressed. More than one class! A semester or even an emphasis in a major is needed to change the future.
    There you go IYCA! Hit the academics and knock them from their ivory towers!

  19. Dave Mallinger says:

    There is always two sides to a story. We need to be careful that we don’t condemn these coaches with out understanding what they are trying to achieve.

    I coached a rugby team of 14 year olds, one boy in particular caught my eye. He was a big boy with natural ability but lacked confidence. Much to mum’s disgust, I pushed ( challenged) him quite hard and there were some painful moments for both of us. At he end of the season we had a small social, this lad came up to me privately and gave me a small present which was nice, what was really heart warming was his words – thank you for a great year, making me part of the team and instilling confidence within me.

    This lad is now playing first 15 rugby with a huge smile on his face.

    We are quick to condemn- please, we need to understand what is really happening.


  20. Debbie says:

    WOW.. how great to return to this site and see all the replies and from Kwame as well from the comments I made.

    I’m just stating the facts. Not condemning. I’m happy to have my son “pushed” if it’s based in proper theory. I’m guessing a helicopter parent is a hovering one? Not a hovering parent here. Just a concerned one, and involved one, a passionate one. I’m a critical thinker and if my son should be able to run a mile at age 11, I want to know, but…I looked to find that out and it is how I connected with Brian’s work and began to read so much about this. Not only did she have them running a mile, she said they should be running 7-minute miles. I asked her for an objective schedule for working up to that and she replied, “Just have him run a mile around your neighborhood and time him. The next day, make him go faster.” There’s nothing hiding from the story except that the coach is a former semiprofessional player and I believe was coaching kids as she would coach an adult. The only story is he loves soccer and he is a creative and strategic player, but he is slow. I really want him to learn what happens if he sticks with a thing and works at it, but finding appropriate coaching is another story. I am not interested in whether he becomes a super star or if I have a cool kid who is a hot player so I look like a really neat mom LOL! I am interested in my son being able to do something he loves and continue to love being physically active. The coaching on this team also included putting him in front of all the players and not allowing anyone to pass him as a method to put peer pressure on him to run faster and/or to punish him for coming in last from doing laps by having him do pushups at the end. After being benched for THE ENTIRE GAME twice, we were done. He missed one practice in 6 months for a school event, never missed a game, his father and I volunteered for several team jobs. The pushups he didn’t mind so much :)! As I continued to figure out the right place, the right way, the age-appropriate philosophy involved, I find article after article saying these kids shouldn’t be running laps period. I always thought my son looked like he was “pretending” to run. It looked like such a huge effort for him… eventually, a GREAT coach said to have his feet evaluated as he had overpronation…and we then learned that his tibiae/fibulae are long in proportion to his femurs……and all of those things will likely sort out on his growth journey. In the meantime, I just don’t want him punished for being a kid with a body finding its way in its own time. I don’t mind being an educated parent, but I’d lilke to think these coaches would spend as much time as I have getting educated. In fact, all over the youth soccer coaching literature is NO LAPS, NO LINES, NO LECTURES.

    He recently played on a rec team with zero wins for the season. Sorta bumbed out, but he got to play soccer, make friends, learn how to live thru a losing season, and all that jazz. He is 13 now and I never stayed and watched one practice or monitored how much he got to play. It’s not my gig. No helicoptering. No coaching from the sidelines. No whining about how much my kids plays. I just want him playing in a healthy and knowledgeable environment.

    I feel like I’m preaching to the choir.

    I actually returned to the site here today because I have a friend who is a cardiologist burned out on cardiology-ing and looking for a new venture. I’m going to see if this speaks to him. Maybe we can partner up!

    Gotta go…..my soccer player is home from school!

  21. Debbie says:

    Oh … another idea I have had… rating coaches and teams and clubs based upon objective critiera. Everything is rated on the Internet, schools, hospitals, doctors, coaches. I am actually working on this for another interest of mine (medical transcription) and I have soccer on the brain as well. It’s good to have this type of forum to speak in a subjective manner, but to be able to begin collecting data in the aggregate about youth sports? That would create some accountability I think. Clubs, coaches, organizations can put off complaints as whining parents who aren’t giving the full story, but imagine the impact if your complaints (and applause, for that matter) began to be measured by hundreds and eventually thousands of players, parents, refs, etc. We could begin to see the true picture of what’s going on out there.

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