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N.Y. Times Hosts Roundtable on Pros and Cons of Youth Sports

The New York Times' Room for Debate roundtable blog put youth sports under the microscope today, with six panelists weighing in on whether competitive sports "overwhelm childhood or enhance it."

Stephen D. Keener, the president and chief executive of Little League International, unsurprisingly fell on the latter side of the argument, writing:

"While striving to win, children learn about teamwork, leadership, and sportsmanship, all of which can contribute to their development as solid citizens. In organized team sports, children work together to accomplish a task and learn from their mistakes. These lessons directly translate into the classroom and beyond, and they are the reason that Little League considers itself a youth leadership organization, as much as it does a competitive baseball and softball program. "

David Geier, the chairman of the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine's Public Relations Committee, also said parents should want their children to play sports, but with one major caveat. Skyrocketing injuries among youth athletes led Geier to recommend that parents and coaches allow kids to "play a variety of sports of their choosing; giving them a season off each year, or letting them play sports that stress different parts of the body."

A study released earlier this year found that single-sport specialization and an increase in organized competition could lead to a higher rate of injuries for youth-athletes.

Mark Hyman, an assistant professor at George Washington University, brought up one major downside of youth sports: adults who place too much of a premium on winning. He suggests that children drop out of youth sports because "they're not having fun anymore" or "they're tired of being yelled at by coaches and, sometimes, by their parents."

Nicole M. LaVoi, the associate director of the Tucker Center for Research on Girls and Women in Sport, also touched upon the winning-at-all-costs mentality that some adults have when it comes to their children playing sports. "To keep [youth-athletes] playing," she wrote, "parents and coaches must imbue sport with a spirit of fun, mastery, and teamwork, and leave the all-or-nothing win mentality to the professionals."

In short, each of the panelists recognizes that sports can have both physical and developmental benefits for children. But many are also wary of overbearing adults prematurely dampening youths' enthusiasm toward athletics.

Do you think the positives outweigh the negatives when it comes to youth sports? Chime in below.

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