By Ken Reed
A lot has been written — including by this writer — about why between 70 and 80 percent (depending on the study) of kids quit organized sports by age 13.
There are a lot of theories as to why this is the case but I think Public Health teacher Julianna W. Miner nailed it in a recent Washington Post commentary, when she wrote:
“It’s not fun anymore because it’s not designed to be … Our culture no longer supports older kids playing for the fun of it.”
The designers of youth sports leagues are adults, of course, not children. And most adults care deeply about the outcome of kids’ games. As such, adults design youth sports to cater to the needs of the most athletic and competitive players. Expectations placed on kids by adults increase every year as children get closer to age 13.
And so kids, by the thousands, quit sports annually. Sadly, they quit at a time when sports can do them a lot of good in terms of physical fitness, dealing with adversity, learning the value of teamwork, etc.
Thankfully, not all adults are obsessed with winning. Some parents and coaches have youth sports in their proper perspective.
Here’s a perfect example, courtesy of Glendale Little League in Wisconsin. Posted on their Little League fields is the following sign:
1. These are KIDS.
2. This is a GAME.
3. Coaches are VOLUNTEERS.
4. Umpires are HUMAN.
5. Your child is NOT being scouted by the Brewers today.
Glendale Little League
How perfect is that? That sign needs to be posted at every youth sports field, gym and ice rink in America.
Maybe as the “price” of admission, all adults entering a youth sports venue should be required to read this message and sign off on it.
Too drastic? Maybe. But I bet a positive side benefit would be a lot more kids playing sports at age 13 and beyond.
— Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of FansPrint
- League of Fans is a sports reform project founded by Ralph Nader to fight for the higher principles of justice, fair play, equal opportunity and civil rights in sports; and to encourage safety and civic responsibility in sports industry and culture.