SportsLetter Interview: Author Tom Farrey

In “Game On: The All-American Race to Make Champions of Our Children” (ESPN Books), journalist-author Tom Farrey examines the present-day culture of youth sports, where performance trumps participation and where younger and younger kids compete in tournaments and leagues. “There are 12-year-olds driving racecars,” Farrey writes. “Eleven-year-olds are turning pro in skateboarding. Ten-year-olds get recruited by college basketball programs. Nine-year-olds hire professional coaches. Eight-year-olds play 75 baseball games a year. Seven-year-olds vie for power-lifting medals. Six-year-olds have personal trainers. Five-year-olds play soccer year-round. Four-year-old tumblers compete at the AAU Junior Olympics. Three-year-olds enter their third year of swim lessons. Two-year-olds have custom golf clubs.”

Youth sports, Farrey argues, is an institution that is at a historic crossroads, and he travels the globe to contrast and compare the U.S. system with other countries. In so doing, he interviews countless kids and parents; administrators and coaches; and scientists and educators. His account is, at once, sobering and outraged. Concludes Farrey: “[Youth sports is] less and less accessible to the late bloomer, the genetically ordinary, the economically disadvantaged, the child of a one-parent household, the physically or mentally disabled, and the kid who needs exercise more than any other — the clinically obese.”

Farrey joined ESPN in 1996. He is an investigative reporter whose work has appeared in ESPN the Magazine,, “Outside the Lines,” and “E:60.” He has won two Emmy awards for outstanding sports journalism. Before joining ESPN, Farrey worked at the Seattle Times newspaper. This is his first book; see for more information.

Farrey spoke to SportsLetter, in August, from his home.

—- David Davis