The word “quitting” always has such negative connotation, especially in youth sports. No one wants to be called a “quitter” (or see their child labeled as such). And although there are some cases where it might okay to let your child “quit” youth sports, even if quit isn’t necessarily the best word to describe why they might stop playing, with 70% of kids giving up on youth sports by the time they are 13 clearly something needs to give. In a LinkedIn discussion (great places for sports parents and coaches to meet and talk shop!), here’s what one dad-coach did to make sure youth sports stayed fun and kids wanted to keep playing:
In 3rd and 4th grade (Winter), my area had a big demand/encouragement for the kids to play indoor soccer. I hated the concept of organized teams/league/games at that age, and prior to each season (for about five weeks), I rented the facility myself for one hour.
Any kid who showed up got to play. Kids picked the teams. Kids ran the substitutions. I blew a whistle every 2 minutes for the on-the-fly subs. Parents could Only watch. No coaching. Which ever kid volunteered to be the Goalie for the next 2 minute period got to tell the Other subs which positions they could play. No score keeping on the clock. No clock. Just play, play, play.
By the end of the five weeks, the kids who wanted to play in a league would sign up and those who didn’t…. didn’t…… and if they signed up for a team they were all expected to make every game, no excuses (except injury or sickness).
As they got older, and we moved to the bigger facility, I rented it for three to four weeks, same philosophy, but typically (at age 12 and 13) fewer showed up for the pick-up session. No problem. Parents were Not allowed to watch. Everyone played. Mix them up, parents and kids. Parents who didn’t want to play, didn’t come and car-pooled their kids. Parents who played were expected to make passes to the kids and help them improve their game by example. Worked like a charm.
Keep the game fun for all, and they kids will sign up themselves.
We love that solution!It give all the kids the chance to “test out” soccer and see if it’s the right sport for them (a great way to ensure they’ll make it through the whole season). It’s so important that kids enjoy their time in youth sports and playing a sport they actually like makes it much easier to make it through the season and signup for next year! His method is also a fantastic way to get parents involved with the older players and make sure the game stays just that, a game, even as the level of competition rises. Maybe if more parents got the chance to run around on the field they’d be less aggressive on the sidelines!
A lot of the parents and coaches we’ve talked to feel that one of the biggest reasons so many kids quit playing youth sports is because it just isn’t fun anymore. They feel there is too much pressure and it gets far too competitive too quickly. Now, we don’t think there is anything wrong with a little healthy competition, but treating every Little League baseball game like the World Series is a lot for an 8 year old to handle. Other parents and coaches feel that over-specialization and burnout might be contributing to the youth sports drop-out rate. Playing the same sport all year round for 8 years—it’s no wonder kids are over it by Junior High! Why do anything if you don’t have a good time doing it?
We’d love to hear what you’re doing to help keep youth sports fun for everyone!