Lea Olsen, former collegiate athlete and current sports broadcaster, is seeking to change the way we talk about youth athletics through a platform called Rethink the Win.
According to a recent study conducted by the National Alliance for Youth Sports, 70 percent of youth athletes will drop out of their sport by age 13 because they are no longer having fun due to a number of cultural, economic and systemic issues. From “win at all costs” attitudes to parents’ expectation that their child is the best player on the team, the pressure is greater than ever. The recently launched platform is dedicated to helping youth athletes and their parents navigate the world of sports, including these pressures and expectations, and to help them enjoy the experience to the fullest.
Olsen has been immersed in the sports culture from a young age. She was a youth athlete a former captain of the University of Minnesota women’s basketball team and found her way to the professional sports world as a game analyst for the Minnesota Lynx and Timberwolves and ESPN’s WNBA coverage. Through all these avenues, and as a parent of children who went through the youth athletics system, she discovered that winning the game is often revered as the only positive outcome. Rethink the Win is working to change the narrative by championing the positive impact that sports have on youth athletes beyond the game.
“Youth athletics is an enriching team experience and a huge commitment made by the athletes. And yet what we talk about most is the outcome of the game,” says Olsen. “We should be focusing on the personal wins, the skills developed that will propel these athletes to success in life after the game ends. The scoreboard can’t be the end of the conversation. We need to put the focus back on the kids.”
Studies indicate that the toxic winning culture affects not just the athletes, but the industry as a whole. According to the National Federation of State High School Associations, 80 percent of high school officials quit after their second year. And a National Association of Sports Officials study shows that 40 percent of officials name parents as the source of most unsportsmanlike behavior in games. Olsen is aiming to spread the Rethink the Win message to the many groups involved, including the athletes themselves, as well as parents, coaches and officials who can effect change in the industry.
Olsen is launching a podcast, “Youth Sports Intervention,” where she uses her broadcasting background to go deep on various issues to connect the many pieces of the youth sports puzzle. With help from professional athletes, coaches, sports psychologists, and parents, the podcast aims to show those involved in the youth sports industry that there is much more to gain from sports beyond winning a game. One of the guests to share their personal story is John Randle, former Minnesota Viking, Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee and member of the NFL Legends Community.
“This is an important issue. I’m thankful Rethink the Win is tackling head-on,” said Randle. “Student-athletes, including myself at one time can get so bogged down in the challenge of the game and the pressure to succeed that we lose focus on what really matters – the greater impact the sport has on our lives.”
The platform website is designed to be a gateway resource for athletes and parents, connecting them to video and written content designed to offer inspiration and tangible skills to move away from the culture of winning.
As part of the Rethink the Win platform, Olsen works with high school and college athletes to help them leverage their sports experience to succeed later in life. She also speaks at schools and league events, offering athletes, parents and coaches guidance on how to ensure young people get the most out of their participation in sports.
To learn more about the Rethink the Win platform, visit www.RethinkTheWin.com.