Want to hear a crazy statistic? “Each year, more than thirty-five million kids register for organized youth sports, yet a staggering 70% of kids quit playing sports by age 13.” Now we all know that the odds of a kid “going pro,” or even just landing a spot on their college team, are pretty slim—but is that the only reason to keep playing sports? Why are so many kids giving up on youth sports at such a young age? Sure, not everyone that signs up for Little League baseball is going to love it, but do 70% of kids really dislike sports that much that they never want to play another sport ever again? Obviously we here at SportsSignup are a little biased, but we feel that playing sports, be it in a youth sports league, intramural team, or just a pickup game at the community center, is something you should want to do your whole life! So what can we as parents, coaches, administrators and officials do to keep kids from quitting sports so young?
1. Prevent burnout by encouraging them to try different sports.
There’s a lot of speculation that kids are burning out on youth sports at a younger and younger age because of specialization. If you start playing baseball when you’re five and that’s all you ever do (league teams, travel teams, pitching lessons, batting instruction, clinics, camps, etc) than it’s no surprise that by 13 you’ve had enough! Obviously this isn’t true for every kid but it’s probably worth considering as a contributing factor. One way to prevent burnout amongst youth athletes is to encourage them to try a different sport each season. It gives them a chance to learn new skills and give new muscles a chance to take over.
2. Stop putting so much pressure on youth athletes!
Stop treating PeeWee football games like they’re the Super Bowl! Of course you want your child to be on the winning team (don’t worry, every sports parent does) but don’t get so lost in the competition of sport that you forget you’re dealing with kids and not professionals. Youth sports organizations are where players learn the fundamental skills of their sports and hone their athletic talents overtime. 7 year olds are bound to make mistakes; they’ll drop a pass, run the wrong way and get caught daydreaming in the outfield. And that’s okay! Chances are you missed a pass or two in your own athletic career, right? Do you think you would have done any better if your mom or dad had been screaming from the sidelines about it? Have a little patience and remember that everyone makes mistakes. If kids feel like they have to perfect the minute they step on the field it’s no wonder they quit by 13—that’s too much pressure for anyone!
3. Remember that it’s still just a game and it should be fun for everyone.
Yes, every great professional and Olympic athlete got their start in a youth sports league somewhere, but chances are they stayed with their chosen sport long past 13 because they had fun doing it! It’s easy to get up at 6 AM on Saturdays for two-a-day practices when you love being out on the field. Youth sports should be fun for everyone involved—not a chore or a “must do.” Even competitive travel teams can still be fun, especially when you’ve got a great coach that really cares and wants the kids to do well as individuals as well as a team.