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Putting Kids Back Into Kids' Sports

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Youth sports provide a platform for kids to learn, grow, play and have fun. The benefits of playing on a team as a child translate to conquering life’s challenges in the future, and sports provides children an outlet to learn these life skills. Yet, far too common are instances of kids quitting sports because they aren’t having fun. In fact, by the age of 13, 70% of kids have dropped out of organized team sports.

According to the Women’s Sports Foundation, kids are opting out of play because they stop having fun. Not surprisingly, kids decide to quit when the sport and team atmosphere isn’t fun anymore. There are many culprits responsible for this dynamic switch in sports, and the key turning point for enjoyment seems to occur during the early teenage years. Parents start stressing the path of sports to college at a young age, which puts pressure on kids and takes away the fun. Coaches take the game too seriously and don’t focus on the best experience for the players.

Additionally, our society has a win-at-all-cost mentality that stems from professional sports. This, coupled with specialization at a young age, leads to injuries and burnout. Kids playing sports to win and to be the best are not going to be lasting participants in the game because they’ll stop wanting to play when the fun goes away.

So what can be done about this dreary situation? Everyone can adapt their approach to youth sports for a more positive outcome for the kids. Parents should aim for perspective. Treat your kids playing sports as you would treat their classroom experience. Encourage and support them as they learn new skills, and have realistic expectations about the role sports will play in their life. Coaches can adjust by focusing more on the positive. And finally, administrators and leaders should prioritize developing the appropriate culture for coaches, parents, and athletes to have positive experiences.

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