About 35 percent of kids ages 6 to 12 participate regularly in organized team sports, but this number has been on the decline for years. There are many reasons why kids quit playing sports, each likely due to personal experiences and circumstances.
Not Having Fun
The top reason cited by kids for dropping out of sports is that they're not having a good time. Having fun means something different to each kid, but overall they want to have an enjoyable experience at practices, games, and as part of a team. For some kids, this includes performing well individually, continually learning and improving, and an overall fun group experience. The benefits of sports need to outweigh the downfalls to keep kids excited about playing.
Problems With the Coach
Fewer than a third of youth coaches are properly trained in areas like sports instruction or safety. This could lead to inappropriate teaching methods or lack of expertise in working with children. In some cases, bad coaching techniques are to blame while other times kids simply don't like their coach. A recent study about what makes kids enjoy sports shows the most important aspects of positive coaching are being respectful, encouraging, and a good role model.
Perceived Gender Roles
Girls are six times more likely to drop out of sports than boys. Because of stereotypes such as those claiming girls aren't as athletic as boys or that girls shouldn't participate in certain sports, parents are less likely to push their daughters and organizations spend less money on girls' youth sports. Combine these stereotypes with a lack of role models like the fact that only about 15 percent of youth coaches are women and you can see why girls might not feel like they belong.
Burnout and Exhaustion
Burnout, or overtraining syndrome, is caused by stress, fatigue, and insufficient time to recover. When kids start playing sports early on in life and are practicing or playing too much, they can start to suffer negative physical effects and lose passion for the game. To curb this exhaustion try:
- Varying workouts
- Focusing on technique
- Emphasizing fun over competition and winning
- Allowing proper rehabilitation and recovery time for injuries
Nearly every parent wants greatness for their child and most have the best of intentions in encouraging sports as a way to achieve greatness. However, pressure from parents can become a deterrent for kids. When parents emphasize winning, criticize their child's performance, or spend time outside of practice and games trying to coach their child it can be overwhelming. Kids who don't want to disappoint their parents might feel that quitting is the only way they can avoid feeling ashamed or embarrassed.
Fear of Injury
All sports have the potential for injuries, but some have higher risks than others. Because kids' bodies are still developing, serious injuries during childhood can affect the rest of their lives. In some cases, it's the kids who are worried about getting seriously hurt, but other times the parents discourage participation for the sake of safety. Youth sports account for:
- One-third of injuries in childhood
- One-fourth of traumatic brain injuries in kids
- Over 600,000 trips for kids to the ER annually
Cost of Participation
The youth sports economy in the U.S. has become a market worth over $15 billion. As local rec leagues are replaced with privatized youth sports organizations, the costs to participate increase significantly. According to the Project Play Annual Youth Report, money is the biggest factor that drives early youth participation in sports. Only about half as many kids from the lowest income families participate in sports when compared to kids from the wealthiest families.
How Parents Can Deal With Quitting
There is an ongoing debate about the importance of youth sports and how they're currently run. About 45 percent of all kids who start a sport will quit, so know your child is not alone if he or she is thinking of dropping out. The good news is about one-third of kids restart a sport they had previously quit. The biggest drops in sports participation can be seen around ninth grade or about age 14 to 15 for both boys and girls. If your child is thinking of quitting:
- Discuss their reasoning
- Support their decision the best you can
- Provide encouragement in moving forward
Quitting With Good Reason
Most kids who quit sports feel they have a valid reason to leave the team. Whether their perception is accurate is up to parents to investigate. Sometimes quitting a sport is the best thing for your a kid, other times they just need someone to support their emotions and efforts.