Oct 07, 2011 • 4 min read
I love having kids who play sports. I love slogging across muddy fields on Saturday mornings, hot coffee in one hand and an umbrella in the other. I love the daisy-pickers and the goal-scorers. It’s fun for the kids and it’s fun for me (most of the time). So I was alarmed to find out that 70% of youth athletes quit playing sports–all sports–by age 13. That’s BEFORE HIGH SCHOOL, before sports get truly competitive.
What worries me most about this trend is that a sedentary lifestyle is a contributor to obesity–and obesity-related diseases are the leading cause of death in this country. And the benefits of sports go beyond the obvious health-related ones: there are studies that have found youth athletes have higher grades, lower rates of depression, and less drug use than non-athletes. Additionally, there are many lessons we hope our children will learn through participation in sports, including teamwork, tenacity, resilience, sportsmanship, time management, and how to take coaching just to name a few.
If sports are so beneficial, why are kids quitting? The top reasons kids give for quitting are losing interest (#1) and not having fun (#2). Other common reasons are because sports take too much time (#3) and they want a non-sport activity (#6) or need more time for studying (#8) and because there was too much pressure (#5) or an over-emphasis on winning (#11). In other words, more kids would stay involved if they could balance sports with other interests, have fun while playing and play for the love of the game, with less pressure and less emphasis on the outcome.
So, what can we, as parents, do to keep our kids participating throughout their childhood and adolescence?
Most importantly, remember that we, as parents, are the most important influence in our children’s athletic lives. Coaches, teammates and seasons come and go, but our influence as parents is ongoing and powerful.
Ann DeWitt has a Masters Degree in Clinical Psychology, is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and a Certified Parent Educator. She is an enthusiastic recreational soccer player and coach and can be found most weekends on the sidelines or in the stands with her husband, cheering on their two kids.