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Baseball coach talking to young team

If your child is going to get a full ride to the best college, increase their chances of going pro and be successful in life then you need to be willing to do whatever it takes. I’m talking about year round sports, specializing in a skill position, private skill trainings, spending thousands of dollars and hours on club sports, focusing on the scoreboard and wins/losses and making sure you start your kid as young as possible. If your child is going to be a professional athlete than winning at all cost is a must for sports.

According to a study in 2015 by National Public Radio, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health, 26% of U.S. parents believe their kids will become a professional athlete. These parents believe that winning at all cost is a must and will do whatever it takes for this to happen. 

Let’s talk about the probability of playing sports beyond high school. According to the NCAA in 2019,  between the three major sports, baseball, football and basketball, there were 2,428,589 high school athletes, 145,048 of those athletes (6%) went on to play at the collegiate level, 1,128 of those college athletes (less than 1%) went on to play professional sports. Based on these probabilities, winning at all cost is a must if your child is going to be a professional athlete.

Enough of facts and statistics. Let's talk about my credentials and experience on the topic to support my argument that winning at all cost is a must for youth sports. 

My youth sports journey started when I was 3 years old on the t-ball field. Growing older I found myself enjoying all the sports playing in many youth leagues and tournaments. As I entered Jr. High and High School, I continued to play all the sports, lettering in most and receiving district honors in football. I didn’t pursue collegiate sports, however I did play semiprofessional football for 5 years and will most likely play adult coed volleyball until I can no longer walk! I’m certified by the state of Iowa to coach school athletics, I have 4 years of experience coaching middle school volleyball, 3 years coaching club volleyball and 7 years coaching various YMCA youth sports. On top of that my job title is the “Senior Director of Association Sports.” I’ve organized sports for all ages and have been a resource for many YMCAs and sports organizations for the past 10 years. 


►► Now when I say winning at all cost is a must, I want to share some stories and clarify my perspective on what I consider to be “winning.”

Did you know that youth sports participation declines as a child ages with 75% of children quitting sports all together by the age 11? The number one cause for this is because the game is no longer fun. This wasn’t the case for me, I was truly playing youth sports because I loved the game; I had so much fun it was my nirvana away from everything else in life. Looking back on it not only was I having fun playing sports I loved, but I was also building self-esteem, having social interactions with peers & adults, and learning all about teamwork.

As the level of competition changed from youth to high school sports, I started to develop more vital life skills such as leadership and discipline. It was no secret football was my favorite sport. During my high school football career our varsity team went 1-35. The losses were brutal; however, I was still having fun playing the game I loved. In fact all those losses help me develop what I consider to be one of my most important life lessons I have ever learned, humility.

After graduating High School I started attending Iowa Western Community College as well as playing semiprofessional football. Iowa Western started their football program as I was graduating with my bachelor’s degree, talk about timing! Coming from a small town with a population of 1,000 where minority residents were nonexistent it was a little bit of a culture shock playing on a well-blended team of various races; this helped me learn more about diversity and inclusion.

Seeing how I have developed a love for sports combined with the life lessons I have learned along the way; it was only fitting I became a coach and a sports director. I have found a career I’m passionate about and have made it a point to help train and develop youth athletes and coaches to learn and pass on these same life lessons.

So when I say winning at all cost is a must, I’m not referring to the wins/losses, the final score or even increasing your child’s chances of being a professional athlete. I also want to add before I get to my conclusion is that there is nothing wrong with having dreams, ambitions and working hard to get what you want in life such as perusing to being a professional athlete. Well, now that I think of it, that’s another life lesson sports has taught me as well!


So what I’m referring to when I say winning at all cost is a must, is this. I’m saying my perspective of winning is all the life lessons I have learned through my experience playing sports. So that being said, if we can change the culture of why kids play sports to focus more on the lessons learned rather than the final scores, then yes, I will strongly say that when it comes to sports winning at all cost is a must.

Kyle Gay, Senior Director of Association Sports


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Category: Youth Sports
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My name is Kyle Gay, I’m the Senior Director of Association Sports at the YMCA of Greater Omaha. I’m originally from Villisca, Iowa and now reside in Council Bluffs where I have lived the past 14 years. I graduated from Iowa Western with my associates and Buena Vista with my bachelor’s degree. I’m inspired daily by my wife Kari and son Asa. In my free time I enjoy playing adult volleyball and binge watching my favorite shows.