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Why Most Kids Quit Sports

Every year 20 million kids register for youth hockey, football, baseball,soccer, and other competitive sports. So why do most kids quit sports by the time they turn 13?
By: Carleton Kendrick Ed.M., LCSW

Why Most Kids Quit Sports

Twenty million kids register each year for youth hockey, football, baseball,soccer, and other competitive sports. The National Alliance for Sportsreports that 70 percent of these kids quit playing these league sports byage 13 -- and never play them again.

According to Michael Pfahl, executive director of the National Youth SportsCoaches Association, "The number one reason (why they quit) is that itstopped being fun." With figures like these, it's time we rethink how wepresent youth sports to kids.

With that in mind, here are some key points to remember about your kids playingsports.

Focus on the element of play in any sports activity you introduce to veryyoung kids. Make it fun! Don't burden them or concern them withcompetition, keeping score, and rules. Get them running, kicking, throwing,catching ... and laughing. Use equipment that suits their bodies andcoordination levels (toss a beanbag instead of a ball). Adapt gamesaccording to their abilities. Always offer encouraging words for all theirefforts.

Elementary school
Sports psychology expert Rick Wolff, author of Good Sports, stresses thatparents of kids ages 5-12 need not be concerned with their child'sexcellence at such refined sports skills as corner kicks and drag bunts."Those are unimportant," Wolf advises. "The key here is having your childdevelop a sense of passion for the sport."

Parents and coaches need to be aware of what kids can accomplish at theirdiffering developmental levels -- physically, intellectually, emotionally,and socially. Don't make unrealistic expectations concerning your child'ssports performance -- be it in the area of muscle coordination, dedication,or attention span. Many kids lose their passion for youth sports duringthese years because they feel they can't live up to their parents' andcoaches' expectations.

Middle school
Kids start dropping out in big numbers at this stage. Playing sports losesits enjoyment for them and "fun" takes a back seat to winning. Pick-upgames and just "playing for fun" should be encouraged. The key at thisvulnerable stage is to keep them playing the sports they enjoy -- if not onschool or youth teams, then informally with friends. Not being on a teamdoes not mean they have failed as athletes. It just means that they haveto find other pleasurable ways to continue enjoying their sports.

High school
By this stage, it's usually the successful high-school athletes who playboth school sports and outside competitive-league sports. There are just somany positions to be filled on competitive teams. But what about kids whostill love to play sports but can't because of their demanding academic,social, and work lives? Parents need to remind these kids of the fun theyhad playing these games and help them to find time to play them withfamily members and friends. Helping your kids stay connected to the sports they love now can encourage them to remain physically active throughout their lives.

Read Carleton Kendrick's bio.

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