My youngest will turn 17 soon. She has been involved in sports since age 7, as were her siblings. It has been my experience that participation in sports gives kids confidence and self esteem. They gain confidence that they can succeed, even when things get tough.
My oldest is a senior at UNC. She was good enough to play basketball in Division 1, but pursued a business degree, instead. She has already signed a contract with Sarah Lee for over $40,000 starting out, plus a signing bonus! I attribute it, at least in part, to the years she played softball and basketball. She carries herself with an air of self-confidence, and the pressure of performance does nothing but motivate her.
Last night, I watched my youngest play volleyball. She's darn good, and VB is one heck of a sport - fast paced and demanding. Her mother and I had a great time watching Allison make digs, kills, blocks, and have one memorable all-around match. So, youth sports is definitely rewarding for the parents. Even when they lose, there is almost always something good to talk about.
The downside of kids and sports is ... adults. Too often, adults lose perspective, and that undermines the value of sports. Little League baseball was my worst experience. I was "the nail that stood up," as Custer says. Yep, I got pounded down, and the pounders took it out on my kids, who played minimum innings that year. The excuse for playing my oldest daughter minimum innings was that she hit the ball too hard, and threw it so fast that one of the other kids might get hurt. She had played on the All-Star team the year before. There were incidents where parent-Managers fought in front of the kids - real fights, and of course there was the usual cursing and foul language, not to mention the soap opera, behind the scenses intrigue... say, that sort of reminds you of GunsNet, at least the AK side? My daughter moved on to basketball next season, and my son chose soccer and football. They both excelled at their new sports, so it worked out well.
If parents keep a proper perspective and support their kids, it can be very beneficial for our youth... that's my 2 cents.