Changing the game in youth sports: John O’Sullivan at TEDxBend


O’Sullivan remembers when youth sports was about children competing with other children instead of adults competing with each other through their kids. Following nearly three decades as a soccer player and coach, O’Sullivan began working to reshape youth sports and inspire a major shift in culture. After serving as a youth coach for the Portland Timbers in Bend, he founded the Changing the Game Project and is now an international speaker and national best-selling author of Changing the Game: The Parents Guide to Raising Happy, High-Performing Athletes and Giving Youth Sports back to Our Kids. His writing has also been featured in the Huffington Post, Soccer America Magazine and The Soccer Wire.

In the spirit of ideas worth spreading, TEDx is a program of local, self-organized events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience. At a TEDx event, TEDTalks video and live speakers combine to spark deep discussion and connection in a small group. These local, self-organized events are branded TEDx, where x = independently organized TED event. The TED Conference provides general guidance for the TEDx program, but individual TEDx events are self-organized.* (*Subject to certain rules and regulations)


31 thoughts on “Changing the game in youth sports: John O’Sullivan at TEDxBend”

  1. I really needed to know how I should be handling it at my kids youth bb games, it has become an uncomfortable place for me …..I LOVE WATCHING HIM PLAY but it was getting lost in the  BS with  the other parents. Some of them are SOOOO intense.  Thanks for  the simple reality check! I am going to give the game back to my kid, and by doing so, get the joy back for us both…..

  2. Totally agree. So glad I didn't need a video to tell me those 5 words. Proud to know that I've always said that to my children. Still is true to this day!

  3. And to think of what I missed. Unsupervised games, playing all day, having fun (unless windows were broken while playing baseball but as kids, we had our own rule for this – everyone pays if a window is broken). As kids, we entertained ourselves, learned teamwork and valued friendship, and celebrated when friends were on teams that did well. Our coaches never allowed individual "glory" and only focused on team effort and team results. I wonder what we did wrong to be able to play without constant adult supervision urging us on to the "competitive or traveling team" when all we wanted to do was play with friends. We learned to deal with disappointment, no trophies or ribbons, or not making the cut for elite teams because we were only friends looking out for each other and having fun together.

  4. While I agree with what you are saying, I think there is another issue we need to tackle as well. That is finding opportunities for "recreational" youth athletes. While there are plenty of "beer leagues" in all kinds of sports for adults, once a child becomes a teenager, there is not a lot of opportunity to continue to play sports on a "recreational" level. A large time and training commitment is expected for most teams, and for kids who might not be that "good" at a sport, there is just no place for them on the team, or no playing time if they are on the team.
    I think another challenge we need to meet is to have truly recreational programs for kids (especially as they get to high school age) that focus on fun and participation – where you don't have to be "the best" to play.

  5. So let's just cancel practices and game planning and just show up and have fun. The point of a vs. sports isn't to compete it's to just run around not knowing what you are doing, but most importantly it's to have fun. Teaching kids not to compete leads to failure. We, in this country, compete for everything. We compete for parking spaces, for jobs, for scholarships. Do we address our children when they are not performing in the classroom? Why shouldn't we address what they are doing wrong in sports? Youth sports are about commitment, pride, honor, goals and competition. Only a few are meant to compete, the rest will be basket weavers and that is fine.

  6. Thank you! I have always been criticized for thinking that kids should PLAY sports. Both my kids have wanted to quit sports for this very reason. I was given this video by my son's new hockey coach. My son is 10. This video brings back many moments of sadness when my son was in tears because a coach yelled at him.

  7. Boooooo this is shit. If there are parents screaming like that then it's only a few and it's not all parents at all games. I mean It's not as if loud parents have a group think and/or a cop's mindset… A child's experience is indicative of the club and how the club is managed, it's curriculum and the people chosen to train the youth in whatever the sport. For every bad parent there is 20 great ones. This video is shit. What really drives 75% of teens away is no more fun. The reason there is no more fun is because of a combination of things… Poor coaching is the number one reason why things become no more fun. The decision by the child or the forced choices of homework and family duties can impair practicing and progression. No practicing (at all) holds a child back, especially if other teammates have physically developed faster. This makes sports less fun. The less you know the worse off you'll be…
    Furthermore, girls have different reasons for stopping than boys and variables are vast. But the antagonist cruel sport parent is not as common as this video commands. If there is these monster parents at every turn, again, it would be due to the lack of coaching not the parents interest

  8. This takes a little while for him to get to the good part, but is very much worth watching about how to encourage them to have fun. The phrase "I loved watching you play" has made a big difference at house. Listen to the whole thing in you are able.

  9. john i feel the same. ive been a youth coach since 1993. I am currently in the process of creating a nonprofit with a twist. anyways thanks for this lecture.

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  11. Hmm, 253,381 views and only 1k in likes sounds like many people did not agree with all of it. They did not want to give a thumbs up or down, I am one of those people. You had Interesting points I agree on some but not all of it. As your child ages there needs to be some level of accountability as they have a commitment to the team and their goals. If your child does not play competitive they have little chance of making their sports long term goals. Those are facts that your kids cannot comprehend and it is your responsibility to explain as they age.

  12. Competition is a good thing to have, but this focuses on the issue that there is too much pressure for youth to perform in their sport

  13. So inspiring and encouraging for some people who had dropped out thinking that sports was not for them. A lesson to the entire community of sports

  14. I understand what he is saying, but if he is truthful, all of those elite players he has coached we the exact kids he was saying don’t become. Those soccer players that make it to elite levels, over 95% of them are playing club soccer year round. So while I understand that parents (including myself) need to get a good handle of the situation, to be competitive, you have to compete with the others you will be measured. It’s quite the paradox. I am dealing with it with my 10 year old this very moment and his BJJ training. It’s a fine and difficult line.

  15. i watched this a year ago and disagreed with John mainly because i was that parent and though my daughter could take it. Well after watching her fear of walking up to my wife and i after her soccer matches i decided we had to try a different approach, this simple " i love watching you play" has completely changed things.. (A) her stress level has drastically decreased and her passion for soccer is stronger then ever leading to (B) her play on the filed has increasingly got better! thank you for this John.

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