According to an article in the Washington Post, 70% of kids quit organized sports by the age of 13 and the number one reason quoted is that it is no longer fun. If you think about it, it makes sense. Most kids start sports in elementary school – parks and recreation soccer, t-ball, gymnastics classes, and the like. When they start out, it is that, just fun – it's all new, there is no pressure and they feel like every practice is something different.
As kids get older, they get better at their sport, which means they may take it to the competitive level resulting in more practices, higher expectations, more potential for injury, time management challenges and the list goes on.
So, how can you help kids navigate these challenges so they stick with their sport through high school, possibly college and eventually develop life long healthy habits?
As a coach, get creative and get the kids involved in the planning of the workout. Remember that as a coach, you are using sport to give kids the basis for a healthy adulthood – teaching them skills about persistence, dealing with adversity, teamwork, time management and more. Yes, you need to focus on things like good technique and strategies for your sport, but don't forget the big lessons you are really trying to teach.
As parents, be supportive and take the focus off the performance (and the winning) and embrace the process and journey. Your child will be headed off to college or independent life before you know it! Their sport and your role in it, will be an important part of their foundation for success as an adult.
Once your child gets to high school, encourage them to get involved in sports at their school. Not only does it keep them in sports, but it gives them the opportunity to be more involved in their school. One of the great things about high school sports is the opportunity to try new things. For example, your child may have played soccer in elementary school and middle school, but now in high school they can use all that training to try new sports like cross country or field hockey. Your daughter may not want to swing bars or flip on the beam anymore, but she may want to take those years of gymnastics training and show her school spirit on the cheerleading squad or take her love of jumping to the track team or volleyball court.
As your child contemplates her journey in sports and whether or not she should continue or not, the best thing to do is keep the lines of communication open – discuss options and alternatives. You may also want to read my tips on Getting Past “I Quit”.
Kids in sports is a team effort! Parents, coaches and the athletes and how they work together can make all the difference in keeping kids in the sports they love!