In search of future fame, parents pushing kids into sports

Edina loves its sports success and there aren’t too many cities with more of it.

But now it’s pushing the traveling youth teams to a younger age — fourth grade. Is it too much, the Star Tribune’s Mike Kaszuba asks in his story today?

According to Kaszuba, the move isn’t fueled because the kids are demanding traveling teams; their parents are.

It’s not just Edina. A state tournament for fourth-grade traveling teams a decade ago attracted 20 teams. In the latest tournament, 115 teams took part.

“I won’t say it’s hockey-like, but it’s close,” Todd Breyfogle, a former college baseball player said. “Too many parents over here think their kid is going be the next Minnesota Gopher.”

He signed his kid up anyway.

Deborah Edwards, the executive director of the Positive Coaching Alliance in Minnesota, said she can only shake her head over what is happening. “Youth sports is so scheduled — it’s overscheduled. I think these traveling basketball teams just add to the overscheduling of the kids.”

In Woodbury, Derek Sharrer said fourth-grade travel basketball is not for everyone, and that parents are often taken aback by the time commitment, travel and expense. Some 9-year-olds, added Sharrer, the basketball director for the East Ridge Athletic Association, are simply too young for its harsh realities. “We try to limit [cuts from the team] as much as possible. [We] focus less on it being a ‘cut,’ and more on it being a transition to playing at a lower level,” he said.

In Edina, the passion among parents comes in all shapes and sizes.

Giovanna Ingram, who described herself jokingly as an “over-the-top” parent, is paying $75 an hour to have her son, Vinnie, get extra training from a former pro basketball player. “He is No. 23 — Michael Jordan,” she said, pointing out her son at a practice, and alluding to the iconic former NBA player. Ingram was also direct in saying what her goal was. “The end game would be, [probably a college] athletic scholarship would be nice,” she said. Division I or II, she added.

The head of Edina’s youth basketball association says third-grade traveling teams are next.

Related: The Rising Costs of Youth Sports, in Money and Emotion (NY Times).