Name the sport. It likely will have some type of organized youth program. Little League baseball, pee-wee football and AAU basketball are the most popular. But there are programs for swimming, golf, bowling, tennis ó about everything except fishing.
The Columbus Dispatch recently published a five-part series that explored what it called a ď$5 billion youth sports industry.Ē The newspaper reported that largely unregulated sports programs are pushing some children too hard and are pressuring families to spend big money traveling the country for games and getting specialized training in pursuit of the elusive college scholarship.
We donít doubt any of that. In fact, it is happening in our own back yard. Traveling youth sports teams have local kids playing games as far away as Las Vegas and Memphis, Tenn.
Are the parents nuts for forking out that kind of money so their sons or daughters can dribble a basketball west of the Mississippi River or swim in a pool in Florida? Is this putting too much pressure on the young athletes?
Thatís not for us to say. Nor is it for you to say. Itís a decision that belongs to the parents and the organizations running the leagues.
Ohio State University Athletic Director Gene Smith calls youth sports leagues a flawed system that does a disservice to parents. He and others, including Gov. Ted Strickland, would somehow like to see youth programs become regulated. A starting point, they believe, would be to have the Ohio High School Athletic Association also become the ruling body for youth sports programs. It would perform background checks of coaches, establish financial guidelines and develop a training program to prevent injuries.
Those are all good services that no doubt would be of interest to many leagues. The Ohio High School Athletic Association also does a wonderful job on the high school level. But even on the high school level, it is not mandatory to join the OHSAA.
Most youth sports programs are run by nonprofit organizations, cities, companies and individuals. They set up their own rules for their own leagues. If you are a parent and you donít like the way a youth program is being operated, you find another program.
We donít see a huge need for ďstate regulations.Ē As Mid-Ohio Select Soccer League President Jim Sturm told the Dispatch, it very well may be ďa proverbial solution in search of a problem.Ē