Longlisted for the Porchlight Business Book Awards 2022
A close look at how big money and high stakes have transformed youth sports, turning once healthy, fun activities for kids into all-consuming endeavors--putting stress on children and families alike
Some 75% of American families want their kids to play sports. Athletics are training grounds for character, friendship, and connection; at their best, sports insulate kids from hardship and prepare them for adult life. But youth sports have changed so dramatically over the last 25 years that they no longer deliver the healthy outcomes everyone wants. Instead, unbeknownst to most parents, kids who play competitive organized sports are more likely to burn out or suffer from overuse injuries than to develop their characters or build healthy habits. What happened to kids' sports? And how can we make them fun again?
In Take Back the Game
, coach and journalist Linda Flanagan reveals how the youth sports industry capitalizes on parents' worry about their kids' futures, selling the idea that more competitive play is essential in the feeding frenzy over access to colleges and universities. Drawing on her experience as a coach and a parent, along with research and expert analysis, Flanagan delves into a national obsession that has:
- Compelled kids to specialize year-round in one sport.
- Increased the risk of both physical injury and mental health problems.
- Encouraged egregious behavior by coaches and parents.
- Reduced access to sports for low-income families.
A provocative and timely entrant into a conversation thousands of parents are having on the sidelines, Take Back the Game
uncovers how youth sports became a serious business, the consequences of raising the stakes for kids and parents alike--and the changes we need now.
About the Author
LINDA FLANAGAN is a freelance journalist, researcher, and former cross-country and track coach. A graduate of Lehigh University, Flanagan holds master's degrees from Oxford University and the Fletcher School of Law & Diplomacy and was an analyst for the National Security Program at Harvard University. She is a founding board member of the New York City chapter of the Positive Coaching Alliance and a 2020-21 advisory group member for the Aspen Institute's Reimagining School Sports initiative, and her writing on sports has appeared in The Atlantic, Runner's World, and on NPR's education site MindShift, where she is a regular contributor. A mother of three and a lifelong athlete, Flanagan lives in New Jersey.