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 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.
Listen on Listen on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, Anchor and others.
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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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