While the statistics from nearly three decades show increased participation in high school athletics, that trend may be about to change.
An earlier article documented some of the reasons participation has been increasing, but let’s examine the possibility that the trend may reverse in the next few years.
In an article published in 2015 it was noted that over 70% of children drop out of organized sports by the age of 13.
There are some legitimate reasons for this as competition begins to increase as a child begins to compete at the junior high and high school level therefore eliminating the kids who may not be as gifted in the athletic arena.
What are some of the reasons for kids to quit sports? Here are five reasons that are bound to influence participation at the high school level at some points.
1. Playing sports is no longer fun.
The simple fact is that as kids enter junior high and high school there is increased pressure to win. In kids’ sports, that is not always the case, unless you have a parent or coach that has lost perspective on the purpose of kids’ sports. As mentioned above, the kids who may not be as gifted are not going to enjoy the experience nearly as much as the pressure to win increases.
2. They have lost ownership in the experience.
This is a most interesting reason and much of the reason for this is the influence of the video game industry. Once a kid gets a controller in his/her hands, they are in charge of the experience. If they are playing a sports video game, they can choose their own players and put together a customized team. They determine how much playing time each person gets. They choose a strategy. They are in control of the experience. Obviously, if they participate in kids’ sports or stay around until the junior high or high school level, coaches are in control of their experience for the most part. Anyone with some age on them will have to let this reason sink in a bit because before the video game experience, this was no doubt not a factor in someone deciding not to compete in sports.
3. They don’t get enough playing time.
This is certainly a factor at the kids’ sports level. It is certainly all right to play to win at any level, but winning at all cost – including not including all the players – at the younger levels is not all right. Once students reach junior and particularly high school, competitiveness becomes a greater issue and the best players should be put on the field, court or diamond to help ensure success. However, when a team is getting drilled, it is appropriate to “clear the bench” and give everyone some playing time.
4. They are afraid to make mistakes.
Grade school kids want to please their parents and their coaches. They begin to find some acceptance when they succeed. On the negative side, overzealous parents and/or coaches can influence kids to become timid. Their will to try is diminished by the reaction of the parents.
5. They feel disrespected.
A 2014 study of characteristics that make up a great coach reveals the number one thing that gives a coach that label is “respect and encouragement.” Kids today have it tough. Many kids have a difficult life because of family circumstances. Some kids are in very difficult environments. They need an adult to come alongside them and care about them and encourage them. That doesn’t mean that a coach has to be soft. Kids are primarily looking for an adult that will invest in their lives.
What are the answers to these factors? Probably the most important one is that parents, coaches and administrators have the responsibility to create an environment that serves the needs, values and priorities of the kids – not just the adults.
This can be accomplished by communicating better with kids, understanding what they want out of the experience of participating in sports and then trying as much as possible to give some ownership of the experience to the participates.
Other articles bring up other reasons why participation in sports may be impacted.
Skyrocketing costs, sport specialization and the need for coaches to have more training has impacted the participation in kids’ sports which will at some point impact high school sports.
Traveling teams have been the number one reason for increased costs for families.
There is a movement to try and overcome the impact of sport specialization. Professional sports leagues have actually been working together to encourage kids to play more than one sport.
“The best athlete is a kid who played multiple sports,” said Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred in a recent article. Manfred spoke with commissioners of the National Basketball Association, National Football League and National Hockey League to come to this conclusion.
One other disturbing trend is watching high school athletes – many of them very talented – suddenly decide to give up a sport when they hit their junior or senior years.
Burnout has caused this to happen with many kids. They have been playing the sport competitively since a very early age and are simply tired of it.
Coaches and parents would be wise to help guard against this as kids grow up.
Next Week: One Sport Suffers From Declining Participation Above All