The Downside of Playing Sports, and Watching Too

Two good questions from a reader named Harold Laski, who is the medical director of Southside Medical Center in Jacksonville, Fla.:

As a physician treating injured sportsmen, I understand (or at least I think that I do), the reasons that people get into sports. But two things have bothered me. First the fact that many parents encourage their children, even at amazingly young ages, to concentrate on sports, so that when they get “big” they can earn lots of money as a famous sports person — usually, at least the ones I am in contact with, as football players. But from my limited standpoint, this actually does more harm than good, in that many children continue on through high school hoping to be that great sports hero, a hope that never comes to fruition. There simply are not enough places in sports that really pay compared to the number of people (students) who concentrate on the sports to the detriment of their education and end up with nothing. Has any study been done to show the true effect of the “sports craze” here and abroad?


I don’t know of any such research into the opportunity cost of youth sports, but would appreciate hearing from anyone who does. I asked sports economist J.C. Bradbury if he had any insight. He wasn’t familiar with any specific research on the topic, but he replied:

My thought is that there is very little negative impact to watching or participating in youth sports. College athletes tend to graduate at a higher rate than the general population. And the demographic of people who watch sports tend to be college graduates with high incomes. Colleges also use athletics to attract good students who like to watch sports.

What I do know is that:

  • Youth-sports injuries pose a significant medical cost.
  • One researcher has suggested that youth sports can lead to a rise in crime (video treatment here).
  • In Freakonomics, we compared young drug dealers to young athletes in that they both are engaged in a tournament model wherein they envision themselves getting to the top of the pyramid whereas, in fact, their actual chances of doing so are punishingly small.
  • I am constantly surprised at how many of my kids’ friends spend most or all of their weekends on travel sports teams. I would have loved to play baseball every weekend of my life when I was a kid, and to force my family to build their schedule around it, but that didn’t happen. That said, I have a daughter who, at 9, is a good and devoted figure skater, so yes, I’m becoming one of those bleary-eyed rink dads you might see some mornings.
  • The question of opportunity cost is, to me, the most interesting one. I have heard of some parents who had a strong inclination to send their kids to a religious school but decided against it because they worried their religious studies would cut into their acquisition of secular knowledge. The same concern could obviously be applied to the hours and hours spent on youth sports.

Here is Harold’s second question:

Secondly, spectator sports. What is the effect on people and their financial status due to the amount of time that they spend talking about and watching spectator sports? I know that many live vicariously through the sports figures and derive a certain pleasure from this just as they do from watching movies. But what is the effect on society from the vast amount of people who are spectators rather than players. Obviously playing adds a certain amount of exercise, something that many of us lack. However, does the amount of time that people spend watching sports improve or worsen their economic situation?

Again, I know of no such research. Please let us know if you do. But I like the question. The downsides to watching a lot of sports seems evident. What about the upsides? You could argue that watching sports is a good social lubricant, it’s relaxing, that it can lead to BIRGer binges (that’s Basking in Reflected Glory).

And I’d take Harold’s question one degree further: what about time spent playing fantasy sports? I had always stayed away from them in part because I feared they would be addictive. This year, my 10-year-old son talked me into playing fantasy football. Turned out my fear was 100 percent legitimate. The only good news is that, in a 10-player league, I made it to the finals. Who was my co-finalist? My son. The winner? Solomon. Now that‘s an experience you can’t buy.

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COMMENTS: 44


  1. RB says:

    I sat next to a very intelligent man on a flight to Japan a few years ago. I guess one would call him a big hitter in the game of life. He had an interesting view of TV….” When you watch tv you are watching someone else make their living.” Same could be said for the great american (sic) pastime of fox and bud.

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  2. trader n says:

    The same argument could be made about academia. More PhDs then there are spots for.

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  3. Kevin in McLean, VA says:

    Seems like the “negative impact” occurs when a kid is born to parents who think that the child’s best (or even only) opportunity for advancement is through athletics or the entertainment industry. Have any studies been done to correlate achievement in athletics or entertainment with the athlete’s/entertainer’s socio-economic status as a child? Anectdotally it seems like the economically disadvantaged tend to focus on these activities rather than academics.

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  4. Pete says:

    “Colleges also use athletics to attract good students who like to watch sports”

    Yes, they try this but it doesn’t work. There is very little evidence that the millions (billions add across all universities) spent on sports works to increase the quality of the student body. Maybe in rare cases, the quantity, but not the quality

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  5. Shane says:

    I guess watching sports can be a community-strengthening activity.

    Regarding there being few places at the top of sports, I’ve observed something similar in pop music. Of course very few musicians become pop stars, yet those stars are constantly on television and radio, perhaps giving children an incorrect impression of their likely chances of success.

    However the growth of reality tv talent shows like American Idol may challenge that ideas somewhat, because American Idol shows the LOSERS as well as the winners. Now viewers can see deluded dreamers being insulted by Simon Cowell – perhaps that has a positive effect in dissuading them from putting all their eggs in the pop star basket!

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  6. Tom says:

    “College athletes tend to graduate at a higher rate than the general population.”

    Ask any college student about the classes or the teacher biases towards atheletes at their colleges. It is all a joke.

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  7. NZ says:

    There are fuzzy lines, though. I work behind-the-scenes in sports, doing video work and operating the instant replay machines which the officials use to review calls. I notice that a lot of the other people involved in similar roles (media people, stat keepers, game clock operators, administrators, and even ushers/security) come from athletic backgrounds. They are the ones who participated in sports, and perhaps once aspired to be professional athletes, but realized they wouldn’t make the cut and settled for a more realistic role in sports administration (many of them attained a degree by that name in college) and its associated jobs. So, the number of “available spots” is larger than you might think, just many of the spots are not as glorious.

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  8. M. Steve says:

    When you listen to a classical sonata on NPR, you are listening to other people make their living. It’s called entertainment and leisure. There are infinite choices in the modern world, and that’s a great thing. I’d much rather watch an Eagles game than subsistence farm. Some people are just more pompous about their leisure time pursuits than others.

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  9. Ian Kemmish says:

    I’d question whether the parents do very much pushing at all. As you observe, many children will happily spend all of their time playing both casual and organised sport, to the detriment of many other things. At least with pushy parents, there is some structure, some feedback, and if the financial impact gets too great, some scaling back of the fantasies.

    Over here, we have soccer academies (a bit like stage school), run by the big FA teams, where promising youngsters go. I think children who try and fail to get into those will at least get an early reality check.

    I’m amazed you didn’t mention The X-Factor, though. Sometimes it seems every teenager on the planet not only thinks they’re going to win it, but that they’re going to be the first person ever to launch a career lasting more than six months on the back of it….

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  10. Tyler says:

    I’d bet the biggest success stories breed a lot of the overly-encouraging parents. Tiger Woods, at least until a couple years ago, was seen as a model son with a fantastic relationship with his father, who instructed him and inspired him towards his world-changing success. In actuality, he was an overbearing, aggressive father whose son ended up far more screwed up than any of us thought. Whether his upbringing had a causal relationship with his current social problems is debatable, but the fact that his life is a model on which fathers everywhere should push their sons is definitely questionable.

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  11. RB says:

    Having been in and around the very competitive DC-area high school sports scene in depth for a few years, a couple of observations:

    J.C. Bradbury comments on college athletes, but what about the kids who aren’t good enough to make a college team (or, worse, who don’t have the grades because they haven’t been studying because they’re too wrapped up in sports). The percentage isn’t as astronomical as the leap to professional sports, but it’s still a long shot (particularly the chances of getting a scholarship).

    And almost all of the kids I saw who were on a college-competitive track in high school spent 365 days a year on one sport, whether it was football weight training, skills tutoring for a team sport, getting coaching at “the club” for gymnastics, tennis, etc., or playing on club teams outside of the school year. That’s a significant factor in the risk of injury, as well as burnout. I’m sure there are studies looking at injuries in one-sport athletes vs. those who play each in its season.

    And don’t take my word for this as a problem. Wayne Gretzky, for instance, has spoken out against the Canadian youth hockey machine, saying kids need to get outside in the summer and play something away from the rink.

    Youth sports are great for kids like Frosted Flakes are part of a nutritious breakfast; a little goes a long way.

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  12. cameron plommer says:

    I agree that there is a significant amount of time wasted by watching sports. But, playing sports is a different question. I personally have learned many lessons from sport, which I’ve written about before: http://ow.ly/3SyEA

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  13. Aaron says:

    It seems pretty ludicrous to believe that all kids choosing to play sports even up through the collegiate level are expecting attain a professional career in their chosen sport and therefore are putting time into effort into a futile endeavor… While this is surely true for a certain percentage, that number is likely vanishingly small compared to those who play for what could be deemed a non-monetized good…. you know, for fun?

    How about the health benefits of regular physical activity?

    The Social benefits of team play?

    As for watching sports…

    You mention the very few available professional athlete positions, but I would argue that at the top of all fields there is a very small number of positions. So, for the average person, what is a better allocation of their time?

    Striving 24/7 for the possibility of achieving what is ultimately a highly unlikely outcome, or instead investing that time in doing something they enjoy, i.e. watching sports.

    Seems that in both the playing and the watching people are acting in a rational manner.

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  14. TN says:

    There are plenty of positive side-effects that come with participating in sports. Sure, an avid footballer or runner may lose an hour or so a day practicing their sport, but plenty of studies have shown the cognitive edge fitter people have over their sedentary counterparts (faster reaction times, better decision-making, improved memory) not to mention of course, improved mental and physical wellbeing. Think of the awful costs of depression and obesity

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  15. Chris says:

    As an employeer, I like candidates who have been involved in youth sports – particularly team sports which help grow social skills, and hopefully teach people to win with humility and lose with grace.

    If they have achieved good college grades too, this must come from either a high level of natural intelligence or the ability to prioritise between their college work and their sports pursuits – both good business traits

    Good sports-people learn to keep winning and losing in perspective… Unfortunately it’s the pushy parents trying to re-live their own (usually failed) sports careers through their kids who are the problem here – Luckily we don’t have to employ them too.

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  16. Margaux says:

    While there is a downside to an excessive amount of spectating and playing fantasy sports, these are simply ways to socialize and engage with friends. I do not look at these things as living vicariously through others, but rather as a bond that brings people together and creates conversation. To your point, there needs to be a balance.

    On the other hand, I think that playing sports is a huge part of character development. From my own experience, it has taught me life lessons that go far beyond the playing field – communication, team work, and an understanding of what it means to work hard and pursue a goal.

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  17. James says:

    Tell me if I’m missing something, but Dr. Laski’s second question seems absurd. Of course watching sports can be an economic detriment. If Bill Gates had spent a lot more of his time watching basketball, he would’ve had less time to found Microsoft. If we’re talking about brilliant and/or highly motivated people, any time spent on a liesure activity will be less time for work. But most people’s lives are more balanced — 9 to 5, or at least 9 to 7. Why would a person watching sports on TV have any more of an economic effect on him than watching anything else?

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  18. Tony says:

    Without sports there would be revolution and social disintegration. All that social energy has to be spent, one way or another, and sports is a benign outlet. Like animals in courtship, in sports we fight for display, not to harm. Sports can unify the empire. Without it we split into ethnic factions and fight it out in the streets. If we didn’t have stadiums full of people cheering for their team they would fill stadiums for the great dictator. So if little Johnny wrecks his elbow pitching before the 7th grade, it could be worse. He could be goosestepping in formation and throwing molotov cocktails at enemies of The Party.

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  19. Matt says:

    I am a bit offended. I was an all-state (track) and all-regional (football) athlete in high school, and was a two-year letter-winner in college track. I also have two degrees, working on a third, and am a gainfully employed engineer, making more money than any of my non-athlete friends. I think my “drive and determination” are what made me good at both — I realized I wasn’t going to be an elite athlete by my junior year of high school, but I sure gave it my all. I would say the same went for schoolwork and my attitude at work – I’m not going to let someone be better than me because I didn’t work hard enough. I attribute that to athletics.

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  20. RB says:

    RE: TV,

    I guess my premise for most TV is that its real purpose is to sell You something, whether you know that or not. Mostly your fears or hopes are played to 24/7. Hence american idol.

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  21. James says:

    “Colleges also use athletics to attract good students who like to watch sports.”

    I’d argue that that is most likely an empty set :-)

    As for kids and sports, the opportunity cost works another way. When kids devote all their leisure/activity hours to one sport, be it baseball, figure skating or whatever, that time can’t be spent learning & enjoying other activities which, unlike most of these “sports”, can be enjoyed throughout life. I’m sure we all know some high school/college athletes who relive their glory days on the couch in front of the screen, while those of us who never made the team are out hiking, biking, skiing, and generally getting a heck of a lot more out of life than those whose athletic lives ended at graduation.

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  22. frankenduf says:

    uh oh- here comes the Chomsky controversy all over again…

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  23. Neal says:

    I agree with @7 – it’s really all about what else you might be doing when you’re watching sports and/or playing fantasy sports. If your alternative activity would be founding the “next big thing” then of course there is huge negative economic impact on the individual but I’m guessing there aren’t a lot of would-be Bill Gates’ out there who are watching sports all day instead of making billions. If your alternative of choice would be going to the gym or running 5 miles then there might be mild economic detriment down the line as your health deteriorates faster than if you’d done those things more regularly. On the other hand, if fantasy football is your alternative to finding a bookie and developing a gambling problem then it’s probably an economically solid choice.

    The opportunity to research this question might be available this coming fall though if the NFL labor situation doesn’t get worked out. If the football watching population becomes dramatically more productive in the absence of games (and presumably fantasy games) then we might know more on the topic. Or at least be able to speculate a little more intelligently.

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  24. Beth says:

    One of my daughter’s was an avid dancer – starting with Irish and eventually moving to ballet. While there wore both economic and opportunity costs to her focus on dance, there were also some major benefits. Her memory and ability to concentrate improved dramatically. She learned a lot about setting goals, both winning and losing, and became much more self confident. While she aspired to a professional career in dance, and probably could have succeeded, she eventually moved on to academic pursuits, in which she has been successful. I think that it was a mixed, and at times traumatic experience, but on balance to her benefit. However, she was never encouraged to believe that it was her only, or even her best option in life.

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  25. Mantonat says:

    If we fixate on the idea of athletes as celebrities, then of course it seems like a waste of time and money to encourage our children to participate in sports. But there are sports other than the big three (or four) and there are many positive aspects of participating in sports that have nothing to do with economics. But if we want to concentrate on the economic aspect, think of all the student-athletes who have been given scholarships at colleges around the country who may not otherwise have been able to afford a college education. Male and female athletes, in sports of all kinds – team and individual.
    I always joke that if I had a male child, I would encourage him to learn how to kick field goals as soon as he was old enough to walk. It’s low impact for the most part and the pay-off potential is huge because so few football players concentrate on kicking as a skill. In youth football, a kicker is generally picked by default, but kicking as a skill is generally not focused on until late highschool or even college. A child who concentrated on kicking from a very young age would almost certainly be guaranteed a scholarship.

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  26. Lawrence says:

    I’d be interested in exploring the affects of gender disparity in the question of parents who encourage their kids to play sports in the hopes of making it big. Given that the current salary cap of an entire WNBA team is less than the NBA’s league minimum for a three-year veteran player, even families that encourage their sons to play sports must not put such high hopes on the sporting abilities of their daughters. In such families, do the daughters end up more successful because they apply their time to studying or other extra-curricular activities?

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  27. John B says:

    As far as watching sports, a few comments:

    1. Except for the very elite college programs, there are many empty stadiums or arenas. A huge amount of wasted resources.

    2. Pro sports attendance is mostly fueled by companies and tickets bought with OPM. Take away the tax-deduction for companies buying tickets and luxury boxes and the stadiums/arenas would be half empty.
    That would be an interesting study! How many real fans go to games?

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  28. buck says:

    “College athletes tend to graduate at a higher rate than the general population.” In general, on the margin true. Although, for female SA and african american SA very true statement. However, for white male SA an incorrect statement. See NCAA data. http://www.ncaa.org/wps/wcm/connect/f015f6004477d89f977cb749973c7da7/GSR+and+Fed+Trends+for+Web+10_26_10+Final.pdf?MOD=AJPERES&CACHEID=f015f6004477d89f977cb749973c7da7

    As for me, I broke my back, another time broke my arm, and yet another time I tore ligaments in my knee. All by the time I was 17. Many kids endure a lifetime of ghost pains from such childhood injuries.

    In college, I was “forced” (if no tryout no pass class — seriously) to tryout for the track/CC team –starting 2nd semester frosh. (as a consequence of running 4:30s/mile during morning warmup for physical fitness class) Well, being totally out of shape(yes totally — 20lbs over my ideal running weight), the 70+ miles a week caused me not to have any energy. My grades suffered tremedously.

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  29. Josh says:

    It seems logical to me that people who are very good at one thing would be very good at many things. The same drive and determination it takes to make a great athlete make a good student, musician, doctor, or economist.

    Studies on kid’s sports are inherently flawed as they can’t possibly weigh all the factors at play, especially considering the most important factors are not measurable. The values that are taught through the words and actions of coaches and parents outweigh anything that can take place on the field, even injury.

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  30. Dave says:

    How can one form of entertainment be any worse then another? Its all just individual preferences.

    I run a gambling pool at work on NFL football. I also run one for the upcoming jeopardy match with the IBM supercomputer Watson. I don’t see how one is inherently better then the other. It seems you just throwing a lot of status seeking all over this.

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  31. Ben says:

    “would cut into their acquisition of secular knowledge”

    I suppose, but there’s more to developing your children than the transfer of knowledge. I have one daughter in gymnastics and one in piano. Both require focus and discipline and, to some extent, can be mastered by mastering yourself. Since we’re specifically talking about sports, I’ll speak to the gymnast. It requires a lot of focus and determination. The skills are hard to acquire and often require months of preparatory strength and flexibility development before attempting them. To the extent that learning this transfers over to academics, work, and other aspects of life, I will be thrilled, and I consider the ability to diligently work at something over a long period of time equally as important as any volume of information I can transfer them.

    I want my kids to be patient and persistent as well as to be able to think critically. Sports can help with patience and persistence, especially a sport like gymnastics, where the development of skills requires planning and development over a period of time.

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  32. Laconophilia says:

    @ Pete (#4),

    I disagree. Take a look at Florida and Michigan State’s admitting GPAs and test scores before and after winning their National Championships in 1996 (FL football) and 2000 (MSU basketball).

    I hold those two as examples because I am familiar with them, but I suspect a similiar effect can be shown with at other Football and Basketball championship winning schools.

    Sports programs CAN improve academic programs.

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  33. Crunchyfrog says:

    I think there’s a gender question as well – since huge earners are almost completely limited to male dominated sports, what’s happening to the daughters in the families where the sons are being encouraged to play football and baseball? My guess is that the possibility of a payoff from excelling doesn’t outweigh the cost of reaching the upper echelons of gymnastics or figure skating. Girls could play soccer, softball or basketball in neighborhood leagues or on school teams for less money, but I seriously doubt parents or the girls themselves think they’ll make a career out of it. So, are they benefiting by not dividing their attention from academics?

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  34. Olujimi Oyenekan says:

    I like the first question. The opportunity cost scenario seems plausible though. In my opinion, I do not believe there are parents alive who push their kids to the extent of forgoing their educational demands. That is to say, most emphasize the sportsmanship but when grade slips are noticed, they address the problem. Besides, the academic field could be just as competitive. Truth be told, if you have the talent developed overtime, you are capable of a realistic outcome. Either way, you shouldn’t force an individual with an great athletic potential to study when he has a better chance of making it on a team.

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  35. Steve Nations says:

    Regarding spectator sports, I think the question is quite dull. You can watch sports, or movies, or TV, soap operas. You can read trashy novels, collect stamps, knit a scarf. You have to do something.

    I think a much more interesting question along these lines is who you choose to root for and what that says about you. Of course many people root for their hometown team, or their school teams. But many don’t, either because they don’t have such a team or just choose not to. And what about individual sports like golf. What does it say about someone who roots for Tiger Woods, pre- and post- scandal. Personally, I always felt like rooting for Woods was like rooting for the sun to come up in the east — kind of boring.

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  36. Erik Bohm says:

    Dutch research shows that active people (involved in sports or physical activity) will recover from illness quicker then their non-active colleagues.
    http://www.tno.nl/content.cfm?context=overtno&content=nieuwsbericht&laag1=37&laag2=69&item_id=2009-01-26%2012:20:44.0&Taal=1

    The article is in Dutch so I hope you will take my word for this statement. The point I am trying to make is that developing an active lifestyle is beneficial to society as a whole. Not even taking the costs of fighting obesity into account, simply having a healthy lifestyle creates better functioning employees and thus saves the company money (less sick days).
    I do not understand the question on opportunity costs in that perspective. What else do we want these people to do that will be more beneficial to society. The amount and costs of sports injuries are easily topped by the benefits of a healthy workforce.

    Being active in sports is takes up time but would any other activity be more beneficial to society? If we involve the happiness-factor, spending time on sports (or merely watching it) can be very beneficial to one’s happiness factor and therefore contribute to the total amount of social happiness.

    Focusing on the few parents who push their kids to be star athletes, creates the idea that everybody involved in sports want to become a top athlete. I believe a lot of people participate in sports to increase their happiness, knowing that they will never turn into top athletes. Training more because you are getting better does not mean that you want to make a living out of it.

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  37. hal says:

    Regarding Q2, I only watch and fan for the sports I’ve played well, because I understand them from the inside. That’s my interest – techniques, skills, strategy.

    Regarding Q1, I think the doctor’s view is skewed by a small sample. I don’t think many parents believe Johnnie or Susie are going to be pro’s. But a significant influence in our culture (and some others) is the idea(l) of lifelong competition. Even the posts here evidence the need to “rise to” or “come out” on top.

    We teach our children to compete because we are enculturated (maybe evolved) to do so.

    “Be all that you can be” “An Army of One” – these are not just recruiting posters; they’re affinity phrases for our widely-held societal values.

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  38. Shane says:

    Interesting article from BBC of some relevance to this:
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-12382224

    Looking at the unlikely growth of cricket in LA’s Compton. Some argue that the “civility” that goes along with cricket culture makes its influence different and more positive than other sports.

    “Don’t be mistaken, there are plenty of gangsters in Compton who play basketball, there are plenty of gangsters who played high-school football and were in gangs at the time that they played high-school football – I prosecuted a few of them,” says Mr Jackson. “I don’t think there are any cricket-playing gangsters.”

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  39. Briane Pagel says:

    Doesn’t this play into the thinking of the “No Lose Lottery?” Parents could encourage their kids to become accountants or nurses — surefire payoffs but not leading to riches or glory — but they’d rather have the exceedingly small odds of the exceedingly large payoffs.

    But the question also assumes that those kids, if they weren’t told to go practice layups or curve balls, would be inside reading up on the Higgs Boson. When I was a kid, my parents didn’t push sports (other than to sign me up for t-ball) and I spent most of my time reading comic books and Mad Magazine.

    Also, a side-question: if you ARE going to push your kids into sports, which sport and which position offers the best odds for success with the least risk, measuring success by “steady income exceeding the average?” I’d say punter or kicker in the NFL, but that’s just my impression.

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  40. John says:

    A. Are there any schools out their with competitive ahtletic programs (ie fairly regular TV coverage) that don’t have at least one fairly prestigious area of study at the university

    B. I find it very hard to believe that student athletes have better graduation rates than the general public, especially when you consider the number of students who go to JC’s to keep playing sports but never advance to 4 year schools.

    I’d like to see someone compare the average salaries of student athletes to those of the general public at 1, 2, 5, and 10 years post graduation. Maybe stratify it based on sport since everyone stereotypes Football and Basketball players as the most likely to be getting preferential treatment while someone who is on the golf or swim is probably less likely to be associated with getting a “free ride”.

    When I was in school it seemed like most athletes had Mickey Mouse majors. Can you really compare those graduation rates and control for ease of major? I guess a college degree is a college degree these days but at what price? A piece of paper doesn’t mean a whole lot when no one will hire you.

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  41. Joshua Northey says:

    “College athletes tend to graduate at a higher rate than the general population. And the demographic of people who watch sports tend to be college graduates with high incomes. ”

    I always take issue with this particular claim because it is not comparing apples to apples. The Minnesota State High School League also always loves to splash these statistics all the time.

    OF COURSE athletes do better than the student body at large, they:
    A) don’t include those thrown out/excluded from athletics for poor grades.
    B) don’t include those with little to no ambition or attention span (yes people like this make it into college all the time, and HSs are brimming with them).
    C) Generally take fewer and easier courses.

    Sure athletes do better than the student body at large in outcomes, but so do members of the math team, or the public interest research group, or the junior chamber of commerce, or any other sort of non-school activity.

    If your choice is between having your kid play baseball, or having him come home and watch TV for 4 hours by all means please have him play baseball to improve his education. But you could also get him interested in the law, or politics, or science, and he would do even better!

    Not that I am against sports, I love MSHL events, and played in them as a child. I still play organized sports today. But lets not pretend that having your daughter play softball is going to be better for her schooling than having her on mock trial, because its demonstrably false and the pro-athletics lobby likes to insinuate it constantly.

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  42. Mairead says:

    As a sport–oriented student, I think it’s fair to say that a fair amount of student athletes will come to the understanding that they are not pro-bound athletes by the time they are in high school. Of course every athlete would love nothing more than to be in the big leagues, but from my experience only the die hard athletes are the one’s that actually pursue such goals.

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  43. Holley Hopkins says:

    I believe that there are some benefits along with some disadvantages. I played sports as a child and I loved it. It helped boost self confidence and kept me fit as a kid. I played hockey for 6 years and track for 4. I agree with some disadvantages. For example, while playing both sports, I received a sport-related injury that cost my parents a ton of money and cost me my time. I fractured my ankle while playing hockey and was on crutches for over 4 months. Also, I had to receive some physical therapy to regain it’s strength. Along with that my sophomore year of track, I tore my FCL in my right leg. I was out the rest of the season and had to receive x-rays, constant doctor visits and 5 months of physical therapy. I’m not saying that if you play a sport as a child, you will get an injury, I’m just saying for me, it cost my parents a lot of money and a lot of my time. Overall, however, I think sports in teens and young adults are beneficial.

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  44. west coast says:

    Look at the acceptance standards of highly selective colleges for athletes versus non athletes. The ticket to Dartmouth or Williams or other similar college can be seen with good SATs/grades and great athletics or very top or the class SATs/ grades for non athletes. I know dozens of exceptional athletes that wouldn’t have gotten into bumper sticker colleges any other way. They are doing fine after graduation, I bet the competitiveness that got them so good at athletics translates well in the business world, even if they weren’t top grade makers.

    I went to a large public high school in the 90′s, 200+ students would try out for the men’s soccer team each year. The kids that made the coveted varsity team 1) played year round on expensive club teams or 2) were recent African immigrants that spent their childhoods playing soccer 2-6 hours a day for fun (and lack of schools).

    Its not about professional athletes in the middle to upper classes, its about trying to either get into the top school possible, or get a free ride on athletic scholarship.

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