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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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With all due respect, I think you're making a big deal about nothing.

It's really about kids making their own choices whether it's organized sports or outdoor stuff like hunting and fishing.

I raised 2 boys who were good enough to receive athletic scholarships to attend college. They were both good students as well.

I was an avid hunter, NRA Firearms Instructor and competitive skeet shooter. Although exposed to all these activities at one time or another in their lives, they expressed little or no interest in any of them, opting for the organized sports route, which was fine with me.

The reality is, for a lot of reasons mentioned in a variety of the e-mails, kids just aren't as interested in firearms/hunting and the outdoors sports in general as they used to be.

I think it's called social evolution. Get over it.

DJ Stillwater

OK Dave now I get it...

If you dedicate your kids free time to sports like baseball, football, or soccer, that's a no-no, but if they're out on a trap, skeet field, or rifle range every day shooting hundreds of rounds of ammo and getting their picture in F & S that's just fine and dandy. No overbearing parents with folding chairs in THEIR world right Dave?



A few of these posts are getting testy!

If you go back to Dave's post he qualifies his statement by saying, "I don't mean normal youth sports like..." At issue is the whacky pedo-centric household where the schedule and budget are over stressed by an inexplicible commitment to a sport which more than likely will not count for anything within the next decade of the child's life. The character development; physical fitness; mental acuity; etc., etc. could have been gained for the child with a fraction of the involvement and expenditure of time and resources.

I fear the real truth is that some parents wouldn't know what their parenting role was if it didn't include this kind of sports freneticism.


Someone above posted about a coach with a whistle around his neck, screaming at a kid in a fit of rage that had the spit flying.
Some coaches are like that, but you don't have to live with the coach. My problem is with the parents who follow the same routine.
My children were allowed to make sports decisions on their own. One played a season of T-ball and loved it. But one season was enough for her. The other decided to play T-ball. After the first practice, she was through with it. She just didn't like it. They both rodeo'd through HS. The oldest even got a scholarship for her abilities.
I say expose them to all sports, but let THEM make the decision as to what they want to do.
Unless there is a drug, alcohol or behavior problem; just let 'em be kids!



Both my "Cowboys" are "Cowgirls"!
They are both in law enforcement!
They both hunt!


Edward J. Palumbo

In a single generation, it seems the recreational possibilities and priorities have changed. My son is 17 and I see a portion of his time consumed by electronic games. On weekends, we go to a nearby rifle & pistol range together on a Saturday or Sunday. In summer, we occasionally scuba dive together. If we didn't have these priorities and that time together, he'd be glued to a computer monitor or electronic device...and I find that unacceptable; it's bubblegum for the mind, non-nutritive exercise for a small portion of the brain. Before X-Box and computer games, there existed an activity called "recreational reading", and there's precious little of that today. His peers who devote a great deal of their time to these games have little to show for it, and develop an odd perspective that mingles these games with a distorted reality. I've observed an inability or failure to develop social skills that seems to limit these kids' ability to interact intelligently with others who don't share that priority (other students, adults and teachers in their lives). They observe well, but they form opinions poorly and have difficulty developing those opinions in conversation. They're well versed on the games and a few can disassemble & reassemble a computer in the time it takes me to field-strip a firearm, which is a marvel to me, but their social skills are undeveloped. Impact on academic performance seems to vary with the individual student, but I see no enhancement and occasional detriment. My son is active in la crosse and is good physical condition, but some of his friends (I've known some of these kids for 10+ years) are couch potatoes, shaped like light bulbs at a time when their metabolism should permit them to burn it off with regular exercise. Some of these kids are going to encounter difficulties in the years ahead. I should add, as a common thread, all of the kids (girls and boys) that come to mind have uninvolved fathers.
As for team sports, I agree that some of the parents should be discouraged from attending the games. I've seen a few baseball & football coaches that couldn't control their language or their competitive attitudes. On the contrary, I'm usually impressed by their dedication to the kids and grateful for their commitment. They are, for the most part, fine human beings and my children have benefitted from baseball and soccer.
I think kids (and adults) need to understand the concept of teamwork and extend those lessons to the society they hope to join.
I think the balance in recreational priorities for some kids has shifted from outdoor to indoor activities because it's convenient to permit it. As one parent commented, "At least I know where he is." When I was my son's age, my friends and I planned camping and hunting trips well in advance. That longer-term planning and organization seems inconsistent with many of today's kids. My son is "busier" than I was at his age, but seems to flit from one commitment or activity to another. I involve him in the planning for our scuba dives, for the choice and accessorization of his shooting equipment and field clothing, in as many activities as I can, but he's not inclined to spend hours (as I was) poring over books, maps, magazines and catalogues. The concept of delayed gratification seems more difficult for kids to accept, and that's a loss.
He was required to save for his Ruger 10/22 autoloader, and he did, but he didn't seem to get as much satisfaction out of it as I. We use our shooting equipment regularly, and we set time aside to clean them together. It's one of our best opportunities to discuss things.
My daughter is 22 and a student at a university about 50 miles away. She remembers her first shooting experiences with a .22 bolt action when she was 8 or 9 years old, though she's not active as a shooter now. Those are good memories for both of us.
I'd guess most of the contributors to this blog are men, and (from what I've already read in preceding posts) I don't think it's necessary to ask you to set one-on-one time aside for each of your kids. They grow too quickly.

Chad Love

Edward, loved your post. My wife is a high school teacher and her observations of her students, and kids in general, mesh with yours.


Considering that I am a mom and not a hunter, I hope I am not breaking some kind of unwritten rule by posting a comment but my son plays baseball and hunts so this caught my attention. Based on the number of fathers I have met @ the ball park who "used to hunt", I would say organized sports definately plays a role in the decline in youth hunting.
Most of my son's friends who hunt were exposed to hunting at a young age because their fathers hunt. We try to allow a balance of organized sports, hunting, fishing, and free time. As I am writing this, he came in and told me he just shot a frog with his bb gun and did the best wheelie ever on his bike. To me, that is as important as anything else.

All of that being said, if youth hunting is declining and most of today's parents are not involved in hunting, it is up to hunters to create an interest for today's youth. While it would not be a good idea to hand someone else's kid a gun and take them to the woods with you, there are things you can do that will hopefully lead to them having an interest in the sport. When your kid has a friend over, talk about how much fun you and your kid have had hunting, frame pictures of their first buck, let your kid have their first buck mounted and hang it in their room, send a picture to the local paper when your kid kills a deer, offer to take them fishing for the afternoon. If none of this works and your kids friends never become interested, no harm done. But you never know, they could become interested enough that they will one day ask you to go hunting with them and their kids.

DJ Stillwater

Carney says...

"At issue is the whacky peudo-centric household where the schedule and budget are overstressed by an inexplicable commitment to a sport which more than likely will not count for anything within the next decade of a child's life."

You mean like competitive shooting?

Edward J. Palumbo

I genuinely appreciated your post.
I am acutely aware that my children's world view is different than mine, and a part of me feels badly for them, but I suspect my parents felt the same way about me.
When my daughter graduates, she hopes to be an elementary school teacher and her goal is in sight. I'm curious to learn what she observes in her classroom.
All the best,


I've pasted the link to our New Hampshire Fish and Game Dept website below. There is a wonderful photo of a kid holding a slab-sided black crappie bigger than his face. The caption reads "Parents don't frame pictures of their kids playing video games..."

I know that refridgerators across America are festooned with fuzzy focused photos of kids playing football, soccer or baseball but how many of those photos feature a smile like this kid?

Ps. I am heading for the lake with my stepson now!


Ok so the link didn't post above.
Try again here, then goin' fishing!

Del in KS

If you want your kid to hunt and fish with you it's a good idea to never let a nintendo, xbox or whatever game in your house. It will be easier to get him to do his homework and chores too!

Del in KS


I got the bug by reading O'connor and Keith when I was a kid. My wife will tell you only the grave will keep me out of the woods. There is no end in sight and no quit hunting in yours truly.


My brother's doing this with his kids and it's driving me and my dad nuts. We grew up in a shooting family, and he's done very little to expose my nephews to hunting and shooting. He's too busy playing golf while his wife signs the boys up for at least two different sports year round.

Clay Cooper

Back in 89 stationed at Eielson AFB I was talking to the Elementary School Special Ed Teacher. She said she is having a hard time trying to get the kids to concentrate. One of the things I told her, one of the best training aids to teach someone to concentrate is shooting sports. She got approval from the School and I contacted Randy Pitney at the University of Alaska Fairbanks and got it all set up. The class really enjoyed themselves and there was not a single safety issue. On the bus back to the Base and the next couple of days, the teacher noticed that the kids where concentrating better than before. The following week there concentration was back as it was before. Too bad we couldn’t come up with a program that would benefit them like this.

Clay Cooper

My 8 year old Grandson Alex is counting the days until dear season and driving his family nuts watching the Outdoor Channel. THAT’S MY BOY!


HEY!!! COOP!!!!

Is his wedding anniversary coming up!?

Sorry Coop! Just couldn't resist the temptation!

Ya just gotta laugh every now and then!


WA Mtnhunter

The declining number of fishermen and hunters is due partly to the liberals who aim to feminize all males, or at least emasculate them. When you see supposedly heterosexual men with plucked eyebrows, getting pedicures, spending time in the tanning booth, getting botox treatments, and the like, you gotta wonder... What role model is that?

I'll also bet that those soccer Dad's who "used to hunt" Kelley refered to are pu$$ywhipped by the spousal unit, as well.

WA Mtnhunter

Put a fishing pole or a .22 rifle in a kid's hands in the right setting at the right time and they are hooked for life! It's in the genes. Works for both boys and girls, at least until they become interested in what is in the other "jeans". LOL

Sue B

Kids these days are certainly keeping schedules that are way too booked. It leaves little time for exploring the out of doors with their families or by themselves. There is problem, but I hardly think that the problem is the "feminizing of U.S. Americans" or soccer dads who are "pu$$ywhipped by their spousal units."

Come on guys. Just listen to yourselves. If you put half as much energy into taking your sons, daughters, wives, and sisters into the field as you do with ignorant complaints, you would see that there are a lot of women out there who cherish time spent hunting, fishing, and shooting.

I recently volunteered at a Women's Cast and Blast. The class was totally booked with eager women who would rather be fishing and shooting than shopping at "Super Wally World."

Do the sport and your fellow hunters a favor and keep the women bashing to yourselves.

Jim in Mo.

Sue B.,
When is the next Womens cast and Blast? The supermarket/bars hasn't produced no woman to my interest.

Bill in VA

Hunting is why I don't encourage my son to play football. I'm happy to watch him play basketball in the Winter and Lacrosse in the Spring, but during Fall I want him out hunting with me.

Sue B

Jim in MO. just keep trying. I bet there is a woman out there who would love for you to take her out fishing or hunting.

Jim in Mo.

Sue B.,
You didn't answer my question. Are you being precotious

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