The story of the 17-year-old soccer player accused of fatally punching a referee on the pitch was indeed indicative of "America's sick youth sports culture," writes Jonathan Mahler at Bloomberg. (Other examples might include this and this.) But the conventional wisdom about why is all wrong. "The problem isn’t that we take youth sports too seriously," he writes. "It’s that we don’t take them seriously enough." Instead of acknowledging the natural urge to determined competition, we cling to the fantasy that these are innocent games "where nobody's keeping score."
As a result, "kids haven’t been taught to respect the games they’re playing. Parents haven’t been told to shut up and let the coaches do their job." We should be treating these sports as the serious endeavors they can be; Mahler's son practices soccer nine hours a week. "As I see it, he's getting a second education on the soccer field—one that emphasizes discipline, perseverance … and the ability to cope with disappointment." Encouraging kids to get serious about their chosen pursuits will foster maturity—and America will "get some world-class professional athletes in the bargain." Click for the full column. (Read more youth sports stories.)