The Idolized Athlete Syndrome (IAS) begins when the athlete is very young, long before the days of varsity competition, and continues well into college and professional ranks. These boys and girls are not difficult to identify, and I am sure that you have seen these “budding superstars” in CYO games, Little League fields, and Pop Warner Football games across the county.
In the early stages of IAS, the kids are often physically bigger than most kids and stand out as a dominating presence -- hitting the baseball farther, scoring the most points in a basketball game, and running for 100+ yards in the football game. If you are not able to spot them initially, just wait for the over-exuberant parent to yell across the playing surface in support of their child.
This is where the incubation of the “entitled athlete” begins. Our society has placed so much importance on the individual success of an athlete that we have lost sight of why our children began playing sports in the first place. According to Michael Pfahl, executive director of the National Youth Sports Coaches Association, "The number one reason why athletes quit playing their sport is that it stopped being fun."
Twenty million kids register each year for youth hockey, football, baseball, soccer, and other competitive sports. The National Alliance for Sports reports that 70% of these kids quit playing these league sports by age 13. And they never play them again. Like Mr. Pfahl I feel that it's time we rethink how we present youth sports to our children. The hard truth of the matter is that an exceedingly small percentage of kids who play youth sports move on to compete at the college and professional levels. The numbers bear this out; according to the NCAA’s report on Estimated Probability of Competing in Athletics Beyond the High School Interscholastic Level:
High School to NCAA: 5.7%
NCAA to Professional: 1.8%
High School to Professional: .08%
High School to NCAA: 3.3%
NCAA to Professional: 1.0%
High School to Professional: .02%
High School to NCAA: 6.1%
NCAA to Professional: 9.4%
High School to Professional: .07%