As parents and coaches strive to create elite athletes at younger and younger ages, what are the physical and mental costs? Connecticut Public Television (CPTV) explores this issue in a new documentary, Going, Going, Gone…, which premiered on Friday, November 22, 2013 on CPTV.
“Gone are the days of playing sports just for the fun of it,” said CPTV Executive Producer Jennifer Boyd, producer, director and writer of the film. “Thus, the name of the documentary and the reason why I wanted to explore the topic. Seasonal sports have now become year-round sports, with more and more kids participating in travel leagues and town leagues, and more parents hiring private coaches to work with their children. There are pros and cons to this relatively recent phenomenon of specialization at young ages, which we address in the documentary.” Listen to this CPTVSports podcast interview with CPTV producer Jennifer Boyd.
Going, Going, Gone… explores the changes taking place within the world of youth sports – changes that have left student athletes exposed to more pressure, more competition and more intense training than ever before. The film features interviews with doctors, coaches, researchers and educators, as well as student athletes themselves, as it looks at how these changes are affecting communities throughout Connecticut, from small towns like Ansonia, which boasts a renowned high school football team, to cities like Hartford, where students compete in the hopes of receiving athletic scholarships.
Regardless of where in Connecticut these student athletes hail from, the risks they face are the same, as the rates of sports-related injuries continue to increase among young people – injuries that could lead to even more serious health problems later in life. As psychologist and author Madeline Levine states in Going, Going, Gone…,
“The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons is really clear that year-round sports is a bad idea for kids, and particularly a single sport year-round is a bad idea. It leads to this enormous increase in overuse injuries that young children have.”
Also interviewed in the film is Tom DeBerardino, M.D., of the UConn Health Center Department of Orthopedics, who points out that he is seeing “more adult injuries now in younger kids” than ever before – and these injuries can have long-term implications. “We could be talking down the road, decades from now … we’re going to be doing total knee replacement where there’s just nothing left to fix,” he states.
Going, Going, Gone… explores not only what changes have taken place within youth sports culture, but why. One reason is that youth sports have become “big business.” As Reggie Hatchett, director of player development for the Connecticut Basketball Club and former director of sports, fitness and recreation for Boys & Girls Clubs of Hartford, states: “You have AAU [Amateur Athletic Union] teams that are sponsored by Nike, Adidas, Under Armour. … And it goes a step further. Now you have NCAA college teams that are sponsored by sneaker companies. So you have Adidas AAU teams gearing their kids or funneling their kids towards the college teams that are sponsored by that sneaker company that they’re in bed with.”
How is all of this increased pressure affecting youth sports in general?
According to Madeline Levine, “We lose 70 percent of our kids from organized sports by the time they are 13, ‘cause it’s no fun anymore.”
Going, Going, Gone… provides a timely look at the local impact of this national concern.