The Youth Sports Crisis
Out-of-Control Adults, Helpless Kids
by Steven J. Overman
October 2014, 249pp, 6 1/8x9 1/4
1 volume, Praeger

Hardcover: 978-1-4408-3138-6
$53, £40, 46€, A72
eBook Available: 978-1-4408-3139-3
Please contact your preferred eBook vendor for pricing.

In America, 30 million boys and girls participate in organized sports.

This provocative critique of the youth sports movement examines the various issues surrounding children in sports and provides a plan for reform based on a change in philosophy and practice.

Many American children spend more than 20 hours a week in organized sports, forgoing free time and unstructured recreational activities for the rigors of training and competition. This book offers a comprehensive critique of the youth sports movement, pitting the reality of adult-run sports programs against the needs and interests of children. It examines whether the tradeoff of “normal play time” for structured sports activities teaches discipline and leads to stronger character development, or if the pressures of the game, the physical strain of practicing, and the general overscheduling of children’s lives have eroded the benefits associated with playing sports.

Educator and former coach Steven J. Overman contends that youth-based sports programs require a radical change for the well-being of the young participants. The book explores the various problems in organized sports, including stress on the family, physical health hazards, violence, emotional duress, elitism, and hyper-competitiveness. Incorporating the perspectives of coaches, athletes, parents, physicians, and social scientists, the narrative scrutinizes the role of adults as promoters and coaches and concludes with a discussion of current and needed reforms.


  • Contains a separate chapter on youth football that highlights the toxic elements of the sport
  • Features a comprehensive bibliography of some 275 sources containing scholarly and popular books, periodicals, conference papers, and online resources
  • Offers a comprehensive view on the topic, including the expenses, injuries, and exploitation by coaches
  • Explores the damaging culture of hypermasculinity inherent in boys sports
Steven J. Overman, PhD, is a retired professor who spent most of his teaching career at Jackson State University in Mississippi. He has held memberships and offices in several professional associations, most notably the American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation & Dance. His published works include Greenwood's Icons of Women's Sport coauthored with Kelly Boyer Sagert; The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Sport; and Living Out of Bounds: The Male Athlete's Everyday Life. He received his doctorate in education from Washington State University.


"Overman’s clear and well-reasoned arguments expose the underbelly of youth sports. He explicitly describes how children can be harmed and manipulated by overly demanding parents and coaches—and argues for putting the play and fun back into sports."—Angela Lumpkin, Texas Tech University

"During a time when organized youth sport has seen rapid growth, Overman’s book reveals the underlying issues that must be addressed to sustain the emotional growth and well-being of our youth."—James E. Holbrook, Associate Professor of Health and Human Performance, Cumberland University
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