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Until It Hurts: America's Obsession with Youth Sports and How It Harms Our Kids

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Near the end of a long season, fourteen-year-old baseball pitcher Ben Hyman approached his father with disappointing, if not surprising, news: his pitching shoulder was tired. With each throw to home plate, he felt a twinge in his still maturing arm. Any doctor would have advised the young boy to take off the rest of the season. Author Mark Hyman sent his son out to pitch Near the end of a long season, fourteen-year-old baseball pitcher Ben Hyman approached his father with disappointing, if not surprising, news: his pitching shoulder was tired. With each throw to home plate, he felt a twinge in his still maturing arm. Any doctor would have advised the young boy to take off the rest of the season. Author Mark Hyman sent his son out to pitch the next game. After all, it was play-off time. Stories like these are not uncommon. Over the last seventy-five years, adults have staged a hostile takeover of kids' sports. In 2003 alone, more than 3.5 million children under age fifteen required medical treatment for sports injuries, nearly half of which were the result of simple overuse. The quest to turn children into tomorrow's superstar athletes has often led adults to push them beyond physical and emotional limits. In Until It Hurts, journalist, coach, and sports dad Mark Hyman explores how youth sports reached this problematic state. His investigation takes him from the Little League World Series in Pennsylvania to a prestigious Chicago soccer club, from adolescent golf and tennis superstars in Atlanta to California volleyball players. He interviews dozens of children, parents, coaches, psychologists, surgeons, sports medicine specialists, and former professional athletes. He speaks at length with Whitney Phelps, Michael's older sister; retraces the story of A Very Young Gymnast, and its subject, Torrance York; and tells the saga of the Castle High School girls' basketball team of Evansville, Indiana, which in 2005 lost three-fifths of its lineup to ACL injuries. Along the way, Hyman hears numerous stories: about a mother who left her fifteen-year-old daughter at an interstate exit after a heated exchange over her performance during a soccer game, about a coach who ordered preteens to swim laps in three-hour shifts for twenty-four hours. Hyman's exploration leads him to examine the history of youth sports in our country and how it's evolved, particularly with the increasing involvement of girls and much more proactive participation of parents. With its unique multiple perspective-of history, of reporting, and of personal experience-this book delves deep into the complicated issue of sports for children, and opens up a much-needed discussion about the perils of youth sports culture today. Hyman focuses not only on the unfortunate cases of overzealous parents and overly ambitious kids, but also on how positive change can be made, and concludes by shining a spotlight on some inspirational parents and model sports programs, giving hope that the current destructive cycle can be broken.


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Near the end of a long season, fourteen-year-old baseball pitcher Ben Hyman approached his father with disappointing, if not surprising, news: his pitching shoulder was tired. With each throw to home plate, he felt a twinge in his still maturing arm. Any doctor would have advised the young boy to take off the rest of the season. Author Mark Hyman sent his son out to pitch Near the end of a long season, fourteen-year-old baseball pitcher Ben Hyman approached his father with disappointing, if not surprising, news: his pitching shoulder was tired. With each throw to home plate, he felt a twinge in his still maturing arm. Any doctor would have advised the young boy to take off the rest of the season. Author Mark Hyman sent his son out to pitch the next game. After all, it was play-off time. Stories like these are not uncommon. Over the last seventy-five years, adults have staged a hostile takeover of kids' sports. In 2003 alone, more than 3.5 million children under age fifteen required medical treatment for sports injuries, nearly half of which were the result of simple overuse. The quest to turn children into tomorrow's superstar athletes has often led adults to push them beyond physical and emotional limits. In Until It Hurts, journalist, coach, and sports dad Mark Hyman explores how youth sports reached this problematic state. His investigation takes him from the Little League World Series in Pennsylvania to a prestigious Chicago soccer club, from adolescent golf and tennis superstars in Atlanta to California volleyball players. He interviews dozens of children, parents, coaches, psychologists, surgeons, sports medicine specialists, and former professional athletes. He speaks at length with Whitney Phelps, Michael's older sister; retraces the story of A Very Young Gymnast, and its subject, Torrance York; and tells the saga of the Castle High School girls' basketball team of Evansville, Indiana, which in 2005 lost three-fifths of its lineup to ACL injuries. Along the way, Hyman hears numerous stories: about a mother who left her fifteen-year-old daughter at an interstate exit after a heated exchange over her performance during a soccer game, about a coach who ordered preteens to swim laps in three-hour shifts for twenty-four hours. Hyman's exploration leads him to examine the history of youth sports in our country and how it's evolved, particularly with the increasing involvement of girls and much more proactive participation of parents. With its unique multiple perspective-of history, of reporting, and of personal experience-this book delves deep into the complicated issue of sports for children, and opens up a much-needed discussion about the perils of youth sports culture today. Hyman focuses not only on the unfortunate cases of overzealous parents and overly ambitious kids, but also on how positive change can be made, and concludes by shining a spotlight on some inspirational parents and model sports programs, giving hope that the current destructive cycle can be broken.

30 review for Until It Hurts: America's Obsession with Youth Sports and How It Harms Our Kids

  1. 5 out of 5

    Thomas

    3.5 stars. An interesting look on how obsessive parents, coaches, and America in general are becoming with "youth" sports. There were several touching anecdotes and an overall good message about a problem that continues to plague America today. 3.5 stars. An interesting look on how obsessive parents, coaches, and America in general are becoming with "youth" sports. There were several touching anecdotes and an overall good message about a problem that continues to plague America today.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Nikki Zumbach Harken

    An EXCELLENT read that should be required before coaching young people.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Christy McKenna

    Basic message is that it's the adults who are ruining youth sports, too often using the kids as fodder to build up their own egos. Unfortunately, the adults who most need to hear this message would NEVER read this book. Basic message is that it's the adults who are ruining youth sports, too often using the kids as fodder to build up their own egos. Unfortunately, the adults who most need to hear this message would NEVER read this book.

  4. 5 out of 5

    John Easton

    Great read covering an important subject affecting the healthy development of American children and handicaping the forward movement of our society at large. One point I would have appreciated is an examination of the student athletes academic journey at division one colleges. That fact that too many young people are encouraged by the adults in their lives to risk long term physical and mental health to play a sport at a D-1 institution only to find that the sports overhead leaves little time or Great read covering an important subject affecting the healthy development of American children and handicaping the forward movement of our society at large. One point I would have appreciated is an examination of the student athletes academic journey at division one colleges. That fact that too many young people are encouraged by the adults in their lives to risk long term physical and mental health to play a sport at a D-1 institution only to find that the sports overhead leaves little time or energy to fully take advantage of the educational opportunity. Sports are are great and I extracted great benefit from them but anything taken to extreme becomes sickness.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Austin Montgomery

    As a high school coach and long time youth athlete, this book should be required reading for all sports parents and coaches. Are youth sports truly for our kids, or have we made them all about us, the adults? A book I plan to have on my bookshelf the rest of my life.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Stephanie

    Lots of problems, not many solutions.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Debbie

    This book is one of the first of its kind to bring the problem of youth sports into the open. An essential read for the sports parent, coach, health care provider or anyone involved in youth sports. Hyman makes it all too clear the problem with our culture, and how our obsession with sports pushes our kids to the point where it's' not fun anymore', becomes not a game but a business, and parents that all too often view team sports as a surefire ticket to a scholarship. Sobering, unbelievable and a This book is one of the first of its kind to bring the problem of youth sports into the open. An essential read for the sports parent, coach, health care provider or anyone involved in youth sports. Hyman makes it all too clear the problem with our culture, and how our obsession with sports pushes our kids to the point where it's' not fun anymore', becomes not a game but a business, and parents that all too often view team sports as a surefire ticket to a scholarship. Sobering, unbelievable and at times funny, any sports parent will see themselves in these pages, including the author, Hyman, who humbly shares his own (previous) obsession with his son's baseball playing days. Hyman meticulously researched his topic, and shares his notes on interviews with surgeons, sports parents and Olympic athletes. Brutally honest, the results will surprise the reader - including: "65% of athletes on Division I and III teams say specializing in one sport was not necessary to play in college", and that sports scholarships if lucky, cover only 15% of college tuition and living expenses, and specializing in one sport at an early age does not improve chances of sports success in high school years. Hyman concludes on a positive note, calling all parents to re-consider their role in their child's sport, and with a plug for a "return to fundamentals". The reader is left with a thought from the director of a soccer league that prohibits parents from coaching from the sidelines or yelling at the athletes, because after all "the game is for the kids". Yes, it is for the kids after all.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Taro Yamashita

    I should have read this years ago. A gripping, engaging book about how adults have screwed up youth sports for youth. I am left feeling angry at what sports for youth has become in the USA, and I have seen it in my own life, as a sports coach who teaches youth athletes. I read books like this in the hopes that I will, at least, not become a continuation of the problem, and at best, a part of the solution to the problem. The problem? How to keep youth sports fun for kids, oriented toward kids havi I should have read this years ago. A gripping, engaging book about how adults have screwed up youth sports for youth. I am left feeling angry at what sports for youth has become in the USA, and I have seen it in my own life, as a sports coach who teaches youth athletes. I read books like this in the hopes that I will, at least, not become a continuation of the problem, and at best, a part of the solution to the problem. The problem? How to keep youth sports fun for kids, oriented toward kids having fun, and beneficial for the overall development -- physical, emotional, mental -- of children and young adults. The book talks about all the topics that are covered in many other books, but keeps its focus, pretty well, on youth sports, even though the related topics (such as concussions in sports) could easily derail the book and conversations. By the penultimate chapter, I was feeling pretty much like adults are monsters, preying on children in sports for their own gratification, at the expense of the well-being of children.... their own children. That's basically the thesis of the book, and it is done well. Hell, I was crying at some points in the book. The last chapter is important, because it shows that there is hope. It shows that there are some people trying to give back to children what adults have taken from them: the fun part of sports.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Alicia

    This book is fairly short and a pretty easy read. I am very interested in the topic as I have played sports all my life and now coach a boys basketball team. The author has a lot of valid and useful statistics as well as opinions/stories from all kinds of people involved in youth sports, ranging from doctors and therapists to parents and coaches, including his own experiences. I really liked that he mentioned several times that he is not flawless and he is at fault also. I thought however, that This book is fairly short and a pretty easy read. I am very interested in the topic as I have played sports all my life and now coach a boys basketball team. The author has a lot of valid and useful statistics as well as opinions/stories from all kinds of people involved in youth sports, ranging from doctors and therapists to parents and coaches, including his own experiences. I really liked that he mentioned several times that he is not flawless and he is at fault also. I thought however, that the subject is too broad for only 160 pages. He talked mostly about baseball (understandable in that this seems to be where most of his experience lies) and only touched a bit on other sports. I think it would have been nice to see a little more variety and depth to the book. Overall, I really enjoyed the information he did provide and his writing style.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Tanya

    I have gone against the grain with some of my decisions about not pushing my kids in sports as we try to keep the emphasis on having fun and just being active for the joy of movement. I feel confident recommending this book to other parents and coaches who push just to turn my child into a "winner" at any cost. This book not only covered injuries, but also touched briefly on disordered eating practices and anabolic steroid use, which added to the read. Definitely sports can be a high-pressure mi I have gone against the grain with some of my decisions about not pushing my kids in sports as we try to keep the emphasis on having fun and just being active for the joy of movement. I feel confident recommending this book to other parents and coaches who push just to turn my child into a "winner" at any cost. This book not only covered injuries, but also touched briefly on disordered eating practices and anabolic steroid use, which added to the read. Definitely sports can be a high-pressure minefield - not only for the kids, but also their parents. I hope more parents will read this book - particularly the ones that don't realize how sports-obsessed they are and the potential harm to our children.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Julie

    I have a pet peeve with non-fiction books that present a bunch of evidence of a problem, then fail to offer solutions. This book does that. As the parent of competitive soccer player and a former competitive dancer, I have seen it all. Literally. Fist-fights on soccer fields, stolen dance costumes, awful comments from parents to their children and mine. I know the issues in this book are real. Will reading this book make you rethink your parenting of competitive kids? Maybe. Will you see aspects I have a pet peeve with non-fiction books that present a bunch of evidence of a problem, then fail to offer solutions. This book does that. As the parent of competitive soccer player and a former competitive dancer, I have seen it all. Literally. Fist-fights on soccer fields, stolen dance costumes, awful comments from parents to their children and mine. I know the issues in this book are real. Will reading this book make you rethink your parenting of competitive kids? Maybe. Will you see aspects of yourself in this book? Probably. Will it make you question what's really important for your son or daughter? Probably. But if you read this book, I would be willing to bet you're not one of those out of control people who do need to take a step back.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth

    This book gave me an enormous amount of food for thought. It made me more aware of the good things our Little League Association are doing. And to be wary of a few things. It also gave me some perspective for my son who is involved in an intense support and how we need to be hyper vigilant to avoid falling into the traps Hyman outlines in this book. He briefly, but carefully, talks a lot about how parents and coaches get so caught up in providing these children the chance to be 'winners' without This book gave me an enormous amount of food for thought. It made me more aware of the good things our Little League Association are doing. And to be wary of a few things. It also gave me some perspective for my son who is involved in an intense support and how we need to be hyper vigilant to avoid falling into the traps Hyman outlines in this book. He briefly, but carefully, talks a lot about how parents and coaches get so caught up in providing these children the chance to be 'winners' without realizing how many child-athletes are victims in many ways. It was an eye-opening book for me.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Wesley

    Interesting critique of youth sports in the U.S. The author's contention is that parents/adults take kids sports too seriously to the detriment of kids. He chronicles the rise of the coaching/private lessons industry, the rise in overuse injuries in ever younger kids, and how specializing in one sport at a young age hurts kids future chances. It's a bit one sided, but it's also great food for thought. Interesting critique of youth sports in the U.S. The author's contention is that parents/adults take kids sports too seriously to the detriment of kids. He chronicles the rise of the coaching/private lessons industry, the rise in overuse injuries in ever younger kids, and how specializing in one sport at a young age hurts kids future chances. It's a bit one sided, but it's also great food for thought.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Shana Fuqua

    Very eye opening book about youth sports. I was aware of the problem of injuries and lack of fun but not how young some of these players are or that 8 and 9 year olds are getting injuries normally found at the college or professional level. Most disturbing is that because these kids start so young and go year round concentrating on one sport most burn long before collage or sustain injuries that stop them playing all together.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Courtney Waltz

    This book is good read about a youth sports in America. It provides some good reminders and things to think about as our 8 year old is entering the world of competitive sports. The book moves along quickly and keeps the reader engaged and if you have a child in youth sports, well worth your time.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Kimberly Simpson

    If you have ever watched youth sports from the sidelines and felt the intensity of the competition between parents, coaches and officials a little absurd ..... This book is for you! If you haven't had that feeling.... This book is especially for you. It's about how far removed we have become from fun in sports for kids. It is a fascinating and insightful book. If you have ever watched youth sports from the sidelines and felt the intensity of the competition between parents, coaches and officials a little absurd ..... This book is for you! If you haven't had that feeling.... This book is especially for you. It's about how far removed we have become from fun in sports for kids. It is a fascinating and insightful book.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Kjones

    i'm sure loads of people can push back that the book in one-sided or his research isn't thorough, etc. all I know is the book made me think quite a bit about my kids sports participation and how I can do the right thing on the sidelines... i'm sure loads of people can push back that the book in one-sided or his research isn't thorough, etc. all I know is the book made me think quite a bit about my kids sports participation and how I can do the right thing on the sidelines...

  18. 4 out of 5

    Joe

    I knew that parents obsess over their kids sports but I had no idea how far it has gone in recent years. It is truly troubling how parents ruin their kids love of sports by pushing them so hard. Very good eye-opening book.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Wiley

    About 2/3 of the way through, nothing is terribly surprising except just how far some parents and coaches will go to ignore their child's or athlete's pain in order to keep them on the field, mat, or pool, for example, before these bodies are developed enough to endure these workouts. About 2/3 of the way through, nothing is terribly surprising except just how far some parents and coaches will go to ignore their child's or athlete's pain in order to keep them on the field, mat, or pool, for example, before these bodies are developed enough to endure these workouts.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Alvin

    This would have been a good magazine article. A thought provoking message that needs to be brought up more, but a book was overkill. My attitude towards organized sports have been changing and this book solidified my view.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Charles Barthold

    If you have kids in youth sports you should read this. A real eye opener for all of us.

  22. 5 out of 5

    John McPhee

    a hard read - both for the contents and the writing - lots of good anecdotes and research - a worthy read for all sports-focused parents ...

  23. 4 out of 5

    Julie

    The subject matter touches on matters of great importance for our children in society today. I wish there had been less on specific injuries and more on what is currently happening.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Robert

    Okay read but shines a spotlight on what is wrong with children's sports......and how parents "F" it up! Okay read but shines a spotlight on what is wrong with children's sports......and how parents "F" it up!

  25. 4 out of 5

    Liz Pearce

    this book was very eye opening. i would suggest all parents who have kids playing high level sports to read it

  26. 4 out of 5

    Jillian Moreno

    Heartbreaking. A quick read, interview heavy about how we try to succeed through our children & can destroy them in the process.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Jen

    Check out my review at http://bookaweekwithjen.blogspot.com/... Check out my review at http://bookaweekwithjen.blogspot.com/...

  28. 5 out of 5

    Martin Jauregui

  29. 4 out of 5

    Kelly

  30. 4 out of 5

    Mark Wood

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