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updated: 11/2/2011 10:34 PM

Avischious takes a shot at reducing youth sports burnout

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  • Youth coaching expert Gary Avischious, a Prospect High School graduate, will be speaking at Midtown Athletic Club locations next week.

    Youth coaching expert Gary Avischious, a Prospect High School graduate, will be speaking at Midtown Athletic Club locations next week.


USA Hockey took a shot ... and scored.

Without a stick.

Without a puck.

Without a goal.

"The first time I saw the video, I got excited," says Gary Avischious, recalling a video USA Hockey created for the American Development Model to promote age appropriate training in youth hockey.

What Avischious, a youth coaching expert and 1977 Prospect High School graduate who's speaking at multiple Midtown Athletic Club locations next week, and United States Tennis Association personnel realized was that USA Hockey "gets it."

The video opens with three kids, one wearing his baseball uniform with his fielding glove on one hand, riding their bicycles through a neighborhood. The next shot shows kids playing at a playground, then segues to kids kicking a soccer ball.

"This is hockey," the pop-up message says.

Kids are skateboarding.

Kids are playing kickball.

Kids are flinging a Frisbee.

Kids are playing Wiffle ball.

"This is hockey," the pop-up message says again.

"We said, 'We're going to compare notes and say the same thing,' " Avischious says.

The message: Kids who play and have fun make better kids -- kids who aren't burned out by sports by the time they get to high school.

Parents, Avischious says, need to back off and get an understanding of what development is. It's not stressing wins and losses and focusing on making your child the next teen sports sensation.

No tennis phenom who was ranked No. 1 at age 12 ever turned into a Grand Slam winner.

"The problem is burnout," Avischious says. "Parents are the biggest problem from that standpoint."

A resident of Colorado, where he's lived since he left the area to attend the University of Colorado, Avischious travels the country presenting forums to coaches and parents on how to utilize play, coaching and behavioral science to optimize kids' enjoyment of a sport.

The local boy starts his "hometown tour" Monday, when he speaks to members at the Midtown Athletic Club in Chicago. He'll host discussions in Bannockburn on Tuesday (4:30-6 p.m., 6:30-8 p.m.), Palatine on Wednesday (4-5:30 p.m., 6:30-8:30 p.m.) and Willowbrook on Thursday (4:30-6 p.m., 6:30-8 p.m.). The public is invited to attend. The cost is free.

It's a must-attend for parents who have children playing youth sports.

"They're well-intentioned. They all love their kids," Avischious says. "But most of them don't have a clue on the development of their kids."

Avischious, whose five children are all in their 20s, is the founder of He's the author of "Tennis Parent Passport," a guide to help children succeed in the game of tennis and life.

He says you never want to tell your kid that he or she is a "natural," whether it pertains to sports or schoolwork, but rather explain that it was hard work and effort that led to positive results.

He encourages parents to miss a game. Or two.

He explains that the most successful athlete is the self-motivated athlete.

He claims of the 26 million children who participate in nonschool sanctioned youth sports in the U.S., studies have shown a staggering 70 percent quit by age 13.

With his local stops next week, he hopes to coach up parents, who can then make their kids happier kids and successful athletes.

Without using any equipment.

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