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July 24, 2008

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Phil Bourjaily: Youth Sports

Last time, I talked about lack of access as the number one problem facing hunting today. True enough, but I would like to nominate another candidate, and, no, it’s not video games. Youth sports are killing hunting.

I don’t mean normal youth sports, like Little League (which I didn’t do. I had a very specific, irrational fear of being killed by a line drive to the temple) or playing on school teams (which I did enthusiastically). I blame the year-round, traveling team club sports for sucking up family’s leisure time and squeezing out hunting.

Parents take kids to another city, even another state, every weekend, then sit on folding chairs and watching games. And younger brothers and sisters get dragged along, too. It doesn’t leave much for taking kids hunting, or even for hunting at all. I don’t know how many times dads my age have told me, “We didn’t get out for ducks/deer/turkeys this weekend. We were in Peoria/Milwaukee/Des Moines for a soccer/basketball/baseball tournament.”

Since when did watching a kid play a game become more important than actually doing something with him or her? 


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Ben in Bama


This is just the tip of the iceberg. Kids these days are growing up with Nature Deficit Disorder...every parent should read "Last Child in the Woods" by Richard Louv. http://www.amazon.com/Last-Child-Woods-Children-Nature-Deficit/dp/156512605X/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1216910545&sr=8-1

Turn off the TV, the video games, the computer, and get outside!



Dave I have another quandry for you. We have kids involved in the youth scholastic shooting sports challenge. There is a competition 2-3 weekends a month. The kids are grinding clay and winning college money, but no time left for the field...

Jim in Mo.

Dave, You just addressed a very sore spot with me. My stepson was a very good ballplayer in his youth, and probably still is. One afternoon at the ball field the coach and scout for the town 'select' team stolled up to us and addressing the boy stated "you've been picked for the team" and then looking at me said "what do you think of that". Now remember this team travels and plays all summer. About 65 games. I looked at the boy and by the look on his face I knew he was thinking like me. I politely told them no thanks. I swear I can't describe the look on those guys face. I did explain we camped and fished alot during the summer and sometimes had to skip his weekly ballgame when we're in the Ozarks. I'm sure those guys didn't understand and probably thought I was a bad father.


Dave, I know the feeling. My children are not old enough for sports yet. They are still pretty young. But our day care person has children that participate in sports and music and everything else. This week she will be running the roads of northern Michigan. One daughter is going to Band Camp, the other is playing in softball tournaments, and the son is going to summer camp. So they will be traveling back and forth all week visiting them and dropping them off and picking them back up again and watching the tournaments. Not only does it inconvenience them but it also inconveniences all the people that she does day care for while she is closed. I feel sorry for her own children because they never get any one on one time with their parents. They are always busy watching children or taking them to Sports or Music Concerts and so forth.

Tom the Troll

Dr. Ralph

I can agree with this hypothesis but also believe the root of the problem lies much deeper... Feminizing of U.S. Americans. Women are no longer the subservient parent and now that they in many cases have become the bread winners our whole society is changing. With money comes power and women are pretty much not the hunter gatherers so they see this as an outmoded cruel occupation (unless that "hunting and gathering" occurs at the Super Wally World. Certainly dragging their children into the woods to commit murder is unacceptable even though it has been going on for hundreds of thousands of years.

Plus where can we hunt now? Fifty years ago there were vast farmlands and many small farms and a culture raised on killing and eating animals. Now the population has moved to Urban areas and get their meat from a nice clean package and don't even want to think about where it came from, who slit its throat, skinned it and did the dirty work for them... they are vultures eating what others have killed for them so they may feel better about themselves. I prefer to be a predator rather than a scavenger...

You think these soccer mom's are going to buy rifles for their kids and take them hunting if sports were abolished? I highly doubt it. They can't rough it after becoming spoiled beyond what inhabitants of this world 150 years ago could never have imagined.

Chad Love

This is exactly what I've been saying for years and people continue to regard me as some kind of un-American mutant for suggesting that youth sports are absolutely killing the future of hunting and fishing.
Call me a fruitcake, but when I look out over a soccer field or a baseball diamond I don't see any of the alleged character-building qualities of organized sports.
All I see are a bunch of rude, loudmouthed parents living vicariously through their children and in the process training those children to be just as petulant and self-centered as they are.
All those kids would be much better served by spending some time wading around in a creek.
But of course most kids don't do things like that any more because most parents are -let's face it- worthless role models who can't be bothered to actually do things with their children, so they use proxies like video games and sports teams to fill the void left by their lack of engagement.
I despise organized professional sports and the beer-sodden shallow couch culture it's spawned in most American males. And I hate that this top-down entropy has wormed its way into child-rearing.
And I say this as a father whose seven-year-old son plays soccer and baseball but much prefers wading around in a muddy creek.
That's because - unlike a lot of dads - I haven't allowed sports to become the epicenter of my son's life. He plays simply because his friends play, and as he gets older and gets more into fishing, hunting, shooting and being out in the woods with me then I expect his interest in sports will wane (it's beginning to happen already).
Does that make me a lousy father for not actively encouraging (I call it pushing) my son towards sports?
Well, I guess if I want to abdicate my position as a father figure to some bigmouthed ex-jock with a whistle around his neck play-acting Vince Lombardi to a bunch of impressionable little boys, then by the fu#@ed up parameters of modern parenting I'm doing my son a huge disservice.
I can live with that.


IMHO these Kid’s Sports have indeed gotten out of hand. I believe the whole area is a fad….and very pricy fad. But like all fads; it too will fall and be forgotten. I have a feeling travel costs are going to kill the extra-regionalism of these games.


However, since most the population is urban…and I suspect will become more urban…I don’t know how hunting access will be an issue if a person must travel 40-miles to a hunting area

With the price of gas Hunting Areas could be a scene out of “I Am Legend”.

Hoarding gas and ammo, planted extra rows of corn, beans, and potatoes. Keeping my horses. :-)

Chad Love

What a perfect example to illustrate what I'm talking about...
Just saw a wire story about Rudy Guiliani's son suing Duke Unversity because...wait for it...wait for it...
He got cut from the golf team and it's interfering with his chances of becoming a professional golfer!

Which just proves a theory of mine that if the dad is a tool, it generally follows the son will be an equal or bigger tool.
And sports, when you parse it down to its basic level, is simply an accelerant for the process. Sort of a growth medium for arsehole development...


I agree nothing feels better then spending a day or two with your kids out in the woods, or on the river or lakes. My wife and I before we had children would love to go canoing in the summer. We would always the longest of the days trips we could that we were out on the water before the drunks and partiers and would leave then behind by early afternoon after we passed their shorter trip pickup points. For the rest of the afternoon it was peace and quite only interrupted by the occasional thump of the canoe paddle. Now that my two boys are able to sit for longer periods and we can find life vests that fit them they have joined us on several trips this year so far. And what is nice about it is that we can point to and explain what we see. From Deer, raccoons, Bald Eagles and so forth. And nothing beats showing them a huge trout swimming beside you as you glide along. We have a weekend canoe/camping trip planned for next month were we will be paddling for 3 days.

Tom the Troll

Chad Love

I'm right there with you, Mark. Ultimately I think organized, year-round youth sports is going to be about as practical as a sixty-mile daily commute in your pimped-out Escalade...
Or, for that matter, pulling the 21-foot, 225-horse bass boat behind said Escalade...
That's why I'm shopping for kayaks right now...


"Since when did watching a kid play a game become more important than actually doing something with him or her?"

Every baby born should come with a sticker attached with this quote on it. My sons were not high school jocks. They were tought that high school was there to learn math, reading, writing,....ect. Those are the skills that will get you ahead in life. The whole high school sports lie has been over sold as a way to go to college and make money as a pro. Only a micro percentage of kids become professional sports stars.

Both my sons were honors students, graduated college, and were offered jobs before they graduated. Yes they still hunt, fish, and shoot with me. Because dad always took the time to do things with them. It is a bond that you can not buy. It can only me made


Amen, David (and Dr. Ralph and Chad),

There seems to be a large segment of American parents who have bought into the lie that their children must be engaged, non-stop, in some organized sporting activity.

The engagement in this pursuit is usually led by the "Soccer Mom", with Dad (if there is one) showing up later to watch, if he can. It is pathetic and disgraceful. The children end up being raised and led by a feminine role model, filled with silly ideas like:

"You're the best."
(Odds are you are not.)

"You can be anything you want."
(Really? Can I be a billioinaire?)

"That was great, sweetie."
(Actually, it sucked, but hearing that would hurt your feelings.)

"Come on now everybody - group hug!"
(good grief)

The result: a bunch of feminized, emasculated boys who grow up to be feminized, emasculated men - wandering aimlessly and lacking leadership of their lives. Basic survival skills: hugging and sharing feelings.

Put a man like this into any dangerous or difficult situation, he will likely whine, wet his pants or die.

Where lies the fault? - with the men - and only the men can fix it.

I have more - but the world is calling.


There have always been choices to make if parents have wanted to take kids hunting, fishing, scouting, etc. Yes some of the pressures to stay in sports programs have increased even when the kids themselves are not enjoying it anymore -- college cost money is really sweet.

As Parents we have the responsibility to help our kids make choices which are healthy for them.

Dan R.

Thanks for the post, Dave. I have been struggling with that issue myself. As the father of a 4-year-old girl, I watched her play tee ball for the first time this year, with lukewarm enthusiasm. The other day, my wife's cousin and I went to shoot trap, and took my daughter along. You would've thought we had just given her a free pass to heaven! She was ecstatic. I'm already softening up the wife to let me get her a .410. Which brings me to a question: Guys, what are your thoughts on a .410 vs. a .22 for a kid's first gun? I was thinking the limited range of the .410 might make it a safer option while she learns to handle the gun responsibly. I got her a toy gun the other day, just to get her used to gun etiquette.


It's a societal shift that's been going on since Mom went to work, the divorce rate soared and political correctness took over.

Throw in lack of access to hunting grounds and you have what we have today. Non hunters growing by leaps and bounds.

My son (who is 10) is the only kid in his inner circle of friends that has ever shot a .22 rifle. And no his friends parents won't let them accompany us to the range. I've asked.


Hate to be the spoiler, but the problem doesn't lie in the sports, but in the manner they are used and taught, just like a gun is the problem but the user. I grew up playing sports and have very fond memories of tossing the ball or shooting hoops with my dad. In fact many important lessons and conversations of life happened over just such occassions and even at 28 years old, these occassions still occur. I was taught many lessons through sports, such as how to compete, how to do so with honor, and integrity; that how you play the game is more important than winning, etc. All of this translates nicely to life application. I in fact had a coach tell our team after an important loss that "guys you played your best, did what was asked of you and lost. The fact that we lost is not what is important, but the fact that you did what you were supposed to do is". See the problem lies in the parents who are living through their children, who are not putting limitations on the time spent in organized activities, and who are not broadening their children's perspectives to the vast world beyond sports. See I also grew up hunting and fishing and just as much as I continue to enjoy sports today, I enjoy spending weekends at the deer lease or fishing tanks. So before bashing sports unequivocally, consider that the problem lies in the parents and instructors more than with the games themselves.


I hear you David-I love organized sports. Sports have always been something my dad and I connected over (more little league baseball & UGA football than anything else), but hunting was ALWAYS better. Maybe that was because I wasn't any good at hitting a baseball, or maybe it was because hunting is just more fun. My son isn't old enough to worry about the traveling teams, so I can't speak from experience, but going out of town 15 weekends a year to watch some youth tournament sounds like torture--even if my son is on the field. Whatever happened to seasons--baseball season, football, etc.?


First gun? I vote .22.

Ben in Bama

First gun? Why not a single shot BB/pellet gun. Less dangerous than the 22 or 410, also quieter so the neighbors don't call the cops, and you can still instill gun safety/etiquette. Nothing like the old Red Ryder to instill the basics.

Just my 2 cents...


Thanks, Dave, and I agree 100%. Around here kids in the traveling baseball league will play 60-70 games by July 1. Parents are taking their kids to games every night of the week, and on the weekends. In this house my kids know the rule - they can play whatever sports they want, but Sunday we are in church, and we will have a family night every week. It's worked for us. Now, my son and I are going after some channel cats tonight, and I need to get a couple of things done around here before we go...


Dan R,
You can start her out on a BB or Pellet rifle to get the basics down and start strengthening the muscles in her arms up a bit. Then move her up to a .22LR. They make a small youth sized rifle called a Cricket that you can get her on that does not weigh a lot and is small and compact for a young child. Plus they come in all different colored stocks.
http://www.crickett.com/TheStore/Rifles/rifles.html Once she has grown a bit more and gained some self confidence I would start her on the 410 gauge. If you start her on the 410 right away the kick from it may scare her away from it or delevope bad habbits like flinching, anticipating the shot, closing her eyes and jerking the trigger.

Tom the Troll

Dan R.

Thanks for the advice guys. Tom, I hadn't thought about what the kick from a .410 would be like for a kid. As an adult, I guess I consider it negligible, but now that you mention it, a .410 as a starter might indeed cause her to flinch or fear shooting altogether. I am definitely going the BB/pellet rifle route - that's how I learned - but I was thinking beyond that. You make a good argument for progressing from the BB gun to the .22, then to the .410 and beyond. Thanks again.

Del in KS

First gun?
Get a pellet gun first. They are more accurate than bb guns. Use it to teach safety and the basics of marksmanship. Next a 20 ga. youth model shotgun. If price is ok go with an over and under and teach to keep it broke open until just before shooting. A .22 (or centerfire) has a range of 1 mile (or more) and as such is IMO dangerous for a kid. The 410 was my first gun and I would not wish one on any kid. The shot charge is so small it will result in much frustration at missed targets. Also 410 ammo is much more expensive than 20 guage ammo. The 20 is a very good compromise between the 12 and 410 guages.

Del in KS


I know what you mean about the heck with athletics. My son and daughter got an education. Both went to Universities on scholarships. She is a teacher, he is a Chemical Engineer. He was offered a scholarship to Law school. Most HS jocks can only dream about his 6 figure income by age 27.


It often seems to make sense in the specifics - why a family is traveling around for youth sports. But as a whole our socieity has made a mistake in making this reasonable.

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