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Kids want to keep the fun in youth sports

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It's a scene you can find across the United States – a youth team packing for a trip, bags in tow, for a new town and fresh tournament.

Out of Apex, the 17 skaters of the Prime Time Dragons hockey team traveled to Snellville, Ga., to compete in the Too Hot for Ice National Tournament.

"It shows the commitment of the parents and the kids," said coach Thomas Morris, "because hockey is not an easy sport. You've got to want it and love it to play this game."

Four nights a week these 8-year-old athletes skate, practice and participate in recreational games. During the season, the weekend tournaments begin to add up, as does the pressure to compete at a high level.

Finding the right balance can be a challenge for kids and their families, especially as the children grow and the level of competition becomes more intense.

Dr. Dick Coop, a Chapel Hill sports psychologist who has worked with top golfers like Jack Nicklaus, Cory Pavin and Payne Stewart, said he has seen a recent move away from sports for some young athletes.

"It's interesting to me - now, I'm having conversations with Carolina basketball players and Texas football players that I've worked with and they're not sure they want their kids going into sports, because of the pressures." Coop said.

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Adding to the pressure of practices are the parents, who at times can take their children's activities too seriously.

Charlie Slagle, the CEO of Raleigh's Capital Area Soccer League, said CASL has a code of conduct for parents.

"We have some that go over board and some that are awesome," Slagle said. "There is a combination."

Bill Byrnes the father to Billy the Dragon goalie, has witnessed parents succumbing to the pressure of winning.

"I've seen a couple of the parents yelling and screaming at their kids and I think that would take away from the fun," he said.

Aside from the pressures to succeed and the occasional out-of-control parent, the benefits of being placed in this competitive environment far outweigh the negative, according to most parents.

Six tips for youth sports parents

Kelli Sheilds, a Dragons' hockey mom, said of her son, "He's experienced being in different states, and the geography and it's important to him, he loves it and he thrives on it."

When the games are complete, the players quickly act like kids again.

Billy Byrnes the Dragon's goalie said, "After all the games, you can go to the pool or something, or you can play knee hockey or something."

Playing is what 8-year-old kids do.

Hannah Rogers a Dragons forward, wants to play "to have fun. That's why I did hockey was to have fun."

Billy Byrnes agrees, "I like winning but it's not really all about winning, it's mostly about having fun."

 

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