AIA takes step toward ruining youth sports

Unlimited offseason practices could effectively kill youth sports in Arizona

Leon La Jeunesse, Opinion Editor, Scottsdale Chronicle

Growing up I heard stories of my elders playing different sports in accordance to the season of the year during their high school years. For boys for example, I could start the year with football and play as many as other sports as I could and would finish the year off playing baseball. However by the time I entered high school the culture of playing multiple sports during that time in my life was all but dead. The culture around youth sports has drastically changed, no longer can youth simply sign up for fall, winter, and a spring sport because now there is simply just to much offseason work that goes into just one sport. And now the AIA, the governing body of Arizona’s high school athletics, has made a decision that will seriously damage youth sports.

In a measure that passed by a 39-5 vote, the AIA voted will remove restrictions on the amount of offseason practices high school coaches can have with their teams, this according to Scott Bordow from the Arizona Republic.

“Essentially, what it means is this: A football coach can now practice three, four, five teams a week during the winter sports season; a softball coach can do the same during the fall season.”

This is what will kill youth sports here in Arizona.

As someone who grew up and played youth sports through the state system I can authenticate this claim. Going into high school I primarily played two sports, baseball and basketball. After my freshman year I realized that continuing to play both was going to be extremely difficult. The AIA “restricted” how much a single sport was allowed to hold o season activities but when adding up all the “restricted” amount activities, just simply doing two sports became an absolute load. When this happened to me I was forced to pick between the two and had to hang up my sneakers way before I was ready.

Not to mention another factor that has to be thrown in that the AIA always seems to ignore, club sports. The fact is for an amateur high school athlete in a state like Arizona is that you have to partake in club sports. It allows the athlete more opportunity to improve their game and have the ability to be seen more by scouts. Another reason why club sports is so important is something that a lot of people don’t talk about but every high school athlete knows to be true, club sports are just better. From the talent level, to the coaching, club sports just o er more to the athlete. The talent level is better in club because in high school, only about a third of the teams are actually competitive while club teams are specifically paired in competition based strictly on talent level. When it comes to coaching, Arizona is blessed to have many retired ex-athletes who live here and who do not want to deal with the bureaucratic nonsense of high school regulations so they choose club ball so they can just coach.

With this measure being passed not only does it put more pressure on the athletes to commit more time to their high school coaches, but it forces them to potentially sever ties with another sport they play and it puts their ability to partake in club sports in jeopardy. While youth sports around the country continue to see declines in participation, it is institutions like the AIA that still seem to not get it. There are many factors that play into this trend but the more that the pressure of sports specification is put upon young athletes the more the answer to this issue will be less likely resolved.