Bethlehem Press

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Spencer addresses youth sports topic

Thursday, December 6, 2018 by Katie McDonald kmcdonald@tnonline.com in Sports

Dr. Jarrod Spencer, founder and president of Mind of the Athlete, a sports psychology company based in Bethlehem, has been traveling the country speaking to athletes, coaches, parents, students, athletic directors, health care professionals, and business leaders with his signature message of clearer mind, better performance.

Recently, Spencer has addressed the topic of parents in youth sports on WFMZ TV and at Grace Church Bethlehem, adding that the central point he makes is controversial, but that Generation X, of which Spencer is part, has wrecked youth sports in America.

“The emotionality from parents on the sidelines, the pressure from parents for their children to excel, and how sports have taken over family schedules have wrecked youth sports,” Spencer said.

Spencer has even invited his audiences to accompany him to see what goes on on the sidelines with the parents and coaches of youths in sports.

Spencer once coached an 8 & Under soccer game where the opposing coach ran up the score, 10-0, knowing he would receive a letter of reprimand from the league.

Spencer also coached a 10 & Under basketball game in which his team was getting beat by 30 points. Spencer asked the opposing coach if he could stop pressing, and the coach refused.

“As soon as you bring this topic up, everyone has a story,” he said. “I don’t think it will change unless there is a generational change. As Millennials start becoming coaches, you’ll see changes.”

Of course, Spencer is well aware of the criticism toward Millennials of having a supposed weaker work ethic, but on the other hand, Millennials have made it clear they don’t want to be like Generation X.

So what do parents of youths in sports do to combat what youth sports have become?

“One, don’t sit by the crowd of parents at games. Two, don’t talk about the game to your children during the car ride home. Three, talk to your child only after they are showered, changed, they ate, and they are rested (S.C.A.R.). Four, don’t make your social media pictures your kids’ athletics because that is too much pressure on them. And five, stop overscheduling your kids,” Spencer said.

“My generation is very performance-driven, but what a lot of people don’t know is that there are 10 times more academic scholarships out there than athletic scholarships, so if you really want your child to succeed, they should probably be in the chemistry club.”

Two years ago, Spencer authored the book “Mind of the Athlete, Clearer Mind, Better Performance” which is another way Spencer has been able to reach athletes, coaches, and parents.

“We are reactive, and we need to be proactive,” said Spencer. “The real passion I have right now is that we have got to educate, educate, educate our high school and college students with mental health skills. It’s no longer optional because the mental health crisis is significant and there is little if any funding for addressing it.”

The other problem is the number of children, young and old, who go to bed with their phones in hand.

“There is a mental health epidemic because there is a sleep epidemic, and there is a sleep epidemic because we have a cellphone addiction,” he said. “This is a big one.”

Spencer polled 100 fifth graders and found that half of them lie in bed playing with their phones. He also says that kids are giving themselves a dose of depression, scrolling through social media sites incessantly.

On Dec. 12 at 6:30 p.m., Spencer will take part in a panel discussion on various parenting topics, including youth sports, at Grace Church Bethlehem, 521 E. Locust St. The discussion is free and open to the public.

In addition, more information on Dr. Spencer, the topic of youth sports in America, and other topics regarding clearer mind, better performance can be found at www.mindoftheathlete.com.