By Ken Reed
The Aspen Institute Sports & Society Program has released a report card on the state of youth sports in the United States, titled State of Play: 2016.
The report card’s overall grade for youth sports in America was a C-.
The report looked at eight areas of youth sports and gave grades for each. Here they are:
1 – Ask Kids What They Want: Understanding the needs of kids and building their voice into the decision-making process around youth sports (D)
2 – Reintroduce Free Play: Making room for less-structured activity (D+)
3 – Encourage Sport Sampling: Exposing kids to a variety of sports, and not asking them to specialize early in any one sport (C-)
4 – Revitalize In-Town Leagues:Supporting community-based options (C)
5 – Think Small: Being creative in the use and development of play spaces (C)
6 – Design for Development: Delivering age-appropriate programs (C-)
7 – Train All Coaches: Training in key competencies in working with kids (C-)
8 – Emphasize Prevention: Preventing brain and other injuries (C-)
A couple troubling things stood out to me.
One, the overall lack of sufficiently trained coaches in the areas of safety, training and education. This is obviously a problem when it comes to the wellbeing of our young athletes but it’s also a problem when it comes to burnout and dropout. The Aspen Institute’s Project Play research showed that only 5% of youth athletes that played for adequately trained coaches quit the sport the next year while the overall attrition rate was 26%.
Two, on the criteria “Ask Kids What They Want,” the grade was a D. The description for this criterion was “Understanding the needs of kids and building their voice into the decision-making process around youth sports.” A “D” grade in this area is shameful. It reinforces my belief that “there’s way too much adult in youth sports.” In survey after survey, kids say having fun in sports is their top priority but youth coaches continually put fun way down the list and place winning on top of the list. All youth sports coaches need to better understand the whole person development needs of the young people they are leading. Part of that development is giving them a voice.
Everyone involved in youth sports — coaches, parents, administrators, policymakers, etc. — should take a look at this report (PDF).
— Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans
Sports Forum Podcast
Episode #28 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: A Chat With Mano Watsa, a Leading Basketball and Life Educator – Watsa is President of PGC Basketball, the largest education basketball camp in the world, with over 150 camps in 30+ U.S. states and Canada. We discuss problems in youth sports today, including single sport specialization, the growing gap between the “haves” and “have-nots,” the high drop-out rate in competitive sports, and the growing mental health challenges young athletes are dealing with today.
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Episode #27 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Kids’ Sports: How We Can Take Back the Game and Restore Quality Family Time In the Process – Linda Flanagan is author of “Take Back the Game: How Money and Mania Are Ruining Kids’ Sports and Why It Matters.” We discuss how commercialized and professionalized youth sports are hurting kids and their families.
Episode #26 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: How Can We Fix Youth Sports? – John O’Sullivan is Founder and CEO of Changing the Game Project and author of “Changing the Game: The Parents Guide to Raising Happy, High Performing Athletes and Giving Youth Sports Back to Our Kids.”
Episode #25 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Physical Education Should Be a Critical Component of K-12 School Design – Michael Horn is co-founder of the Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation.
Episode #24 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Mental Health and Athletes: Ending the Stigma – Nathan Braaten and Taylor Ricci are the founders of Dam Worth It, a non-profit created to end the stigma around mental health at colleges and universities through sport, storytelling, and community creation.
Episode #23 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Olympian Benita Fitzgerald Mosley Talks Title IX, Youth Sports and the Olympics.
Media"How We Can Save Sports" author Ken Reed appears on Fox & Friends to explain how there's "too much adult in youth sports."
Ken Reed appears on Mornings with Gail from KFKA Radio in Colorado to discuss bad parenting in youth athletics.
“Should College Athletes Be Paid?” Ken Reed on The Morning Show from Wisconsin Public Radio
Ken Reed appears on KGNU Community Radio in Colorado (at 02:30) to discuss equality in sports and Title IX.
Ken Reed appears on the Ralph Nader Radio Hour (at 38:35) to discuss his book The Sports Reformers: Working to Make the World of Sports a Better Place, and to talk about some current sports issues.
- League of Fans Sports Policy Director Ken Reed quoted in Washington Post column titled "What happened to P.E.? It’s losing ground in our push for academic improvement," by Jay Mathews
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.
Vanderbilt Sport & Society - On The Ball with Andrew Maraniss with guest Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director for League of Fans and author of How We Can Save Sports: A Game Plan
Sports & Torts – Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans – at the American Museum of Tort Law
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