My Youth Sports Survey
I am sorry, it’s just me. But I am tired of almost every article written about youth sports saying it’s only about having fun and that seventy percent of all kids quit because the fun stopped. The implication is that the system and adults are the only reasons for quitting and the lack of fun. I know and agree, the current youth sports system is trending the wrong way. My thoughts still turn lighthearted every time I hear how bad things are for kids. Those study results make me believe that the kids quitting must be the lucky ones, then. Their lives will not be ruined any further by youth sports. Maybe it would be best if kids quit at even younger ages so their life damage from the current culture is minimal. Or maybe, parents should not put their kids in youth sports at all, because studies show there is no fun and they will quit at age thirteen, anyway.
I know studies show kids play sports to have fun and they quit because it stopped being fun. I would never dispute scientific findings. But, I decided to conduct my own poll just for the heck of it. The results were quite surprising to say the least. I know it is very unscientific and a small sample size, but still informative.
Question posed to young athletes – Why do you play youth sports?
Answer from a baseball player – I believe in accepting the biggest challenges life presents and what is a bigger challenge than mastering the art of hitting, which is considered the most difficult thing to do in all of sports. It will help me solve world hunger someday, which is almost as tough a challenge as figuring out how to hit.
Answer from soccer player – I believe in the cerebral aspect of life and sport, so I play soccer, which is a game that uses the head a lot. It will prepare me for astronomical-physical science I plan on studying in college.
Answer from footballer – it is important to be aggressive and tough to handle the life “blows” that inevitably come for all people. Football helps me develop the physical and mental toughness necessary to protect our country someday.
Answer from basketball player – I play to learn about team dynamics to help me with my future in the corporate world of high finance.
The next part of the poll involved this question – Why did you stop playing?
Answer one – “I sucked”
Answer two – “The results were not equal to the amount of time I put into playing.
Answer three – “I am no longer a kid anymore and I want to have other experiences.”
Answer four – “I want to focus on my studies – college is not that far away, you know.”
Youth Sports Future
The point to my imaginary facetious answers is that there is only one logical answer for kids to give when asked why they play and why they stopped play. “To have fun” or “it stopped being fun” is a catchall for every reason. The questions invite only one answer. They are kids, fun should be a big part of everything they do. The results are then interpreted that is the only objective and proof that it is only about kids having fun. Yes, that is a part of it, but there is so much more to play than that. Maybe today’s youth sports atmosphere is ruining lives, but the athletes I see are having fun. Are their rough spells in the process and do some adults go overboard? Sure, but it is time we dig deeper than just saying it’s about fun and saying that seventy percent of all kids quit at the age of thirteen.
Don’t get me wrong, I admire and am all for those, like me, who write and work to help our youth have better experiences. But, I like to think that youth sports is much more than the fun thing. Learning valuable life lessons and positive character traits are more important than the fun thing. Sports are just not fun all the time, as people suggest it should be.
I also do not believe things are going back to the days of non-travel and non- competitive sports. Things are probably only going to worsen, so it is time we deal with what is now and not think it’s going back the way it was. I just know things can be so much better. I believe I can help with my next book (coming this year), Creating a Season to Remember: The New Youth Sports Coaching Leadership Handbook. (Sorry, someone’s got to plug it.)
The people who have the chance to change the current environment are the coaches. This book will give thousands of ideas for coaches to consider in hopes of helping every youth have a positive experience. Some issues like burnout, bad coaching, and over bearing parents have been around forever. Other problems like the cost to play, early specialization and overuse injuries are newer ones and we need to figure those out too. I give suggestions in this manual to help with those and many more.