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Doctor has prescription for overbearing sports parents

Doctor tells sports-crazed parents to back off

Things that were once readily apparent no longer seem so. Every kid needs to be vaccinated, right? No, wait a minute.

Well, at least sports still builds character — that's a given. But not always, and seemingly less so all the time.

Dr. Louis Profeta has some thoughts on that. He works at an Indiana emergency room and has seen so many sports-crazed parents that he finally felt compelled to speak out, creating a ruckus with his rant about insane expectations. Profeta's passion on the topic, and his candor about what's going on across the playing fields of America, have created a bit of a sensation.

Among the sound bites:

•"I don't care if your 8-year-old can throw a baseball through six inches of plywood. He is not going to the pros. I don't care if your 12-year-old scored seven touchdowns last week in Pop Warner. He is not going to the pros. ... It is simply an odds thing. There are too many variables working against your child: injury, burnout, others who are better ... "

•"When I inform you as a parent that your child has just ruptured their ACL ... or Achilles' tendon, if the next question out of your mouth is, 'How long before he or she will be able to play?' you have a serious problem."

•"If I tell you that mononucleosis has caused [your child's] spleen to swell and that participation in a contact sport could cause a life-threatening rupture ... and you then ask me, 'If we just put a little extra padding around the spleen, would it be OK to play?' someone needs to hit you upside the head with a two-by-four."

These were actual incidents, among many, Profeta said. Like many ER doctors, Profeta is hardly timid, and he's quick to share what he thinks.

Is he audacious? Yep. Has he seen it all? Pretty much. Is he right? You decide.

"When does this pursuit of athletic stardom become something just shy of a gambling habit," he wrote. "When did we go from being supportive to being subtly abusive?"

Profeta's call to arms, and legs, carried in a small Indianapolis newspaper, has caught fire on a social network. Many parents said, "Amen, thanks for speaking out." Others think he's some sort of pansy (for the full text, do an Internet search for "Nuvo Louis Profeta").

Quizzed on his feelings, he said by phone this week that he stands by his provocative statements. He even added to them.

"I don't think parents are living vicariously through their children," he said. "I think it's how they get their self-worth."

The doctor said that about half the comments he has received on the article are negative — some vile. Quick with a quip, he joked that he has nightmares of soccer moms clubbing him to death with nylon chairs and little plastic misting bottles.

His critics say that some kids are very talented, so why shouldn't they pursue excellence? Some will make it to the pros, so why not their sons or daughters? Why attack something that bonds families?

Well ...

"I had a woman tell me that her grandchildren did not show up for their grandpa's funeral because they had a tournament," he said.

Indeed, Profeta scoffs at claims that travel teams enhance family bonding. He cites children in the back seat playing video games during trips. Once there, he said, all the parents will sit at one end of the restaurant table and the kids at the other.

Profeta has lived the life too. With three sons, all of whom played travel ball, he knows the drill. He was an elite gymnast. One son is playing collegiate golf, and another starred in football and wrestling at a 3,000-student high school.

So, having been on the front lines, he recommends that moms and dads balance organized activities with family time. As for raising super athletes, he believes stars are born, not made.

"Every kid who grew up with my kids and went on to Division I, you knew it when they were 10," he said. "They moved through the world in a different way."

He said that somewhere along the line, we got distracted. That the practice field became the dinner table of the new millennium.

"Why are we spending entire weekends schlepping from county to county, town to town, state to state," he wrote. "We have become a frightened society ... we spend so much time worrying about who might get ahead — and if we're falling behind — that we have simply lost our common sense."

Good point, doctor.

As we all know, common sense isn't all that common anymore.

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