70 percent. That’s the percentage of kids who quit sports by middle school.
According to a poll from the National Alliance for Youth Sports, around 70 percent of kids in the United States stop playing organized sports by the age of 13 because “it’s just not fun anymore.”
It’s shocking, considering parents want their kids to participate in sports and get all of the benefits, both physically and mentally, that come with sports.
We recently chatted with John O’Sullivan, author of Changing the Game: The Parent’s Guide to Raising Happy, High Performing Athletes, and Giving Youth Sports Back to Our Kids.
He shared with us the problem behind why kids quit sports and what we, as parents, can do about it.
Why Kids Quit Sports
Hate to break it to you, mom and dad, but the reality is that we’re often to blame for the fact that our kids quit sports.
Or if not us, directly, the environment that our kids have been placed into.
In our interview with John, he explains that, even if your child is a high-performing, elite athlete, sports are only one-third of his or her life (at most).
Parents and coaches get caught up in chasing the wins and pushing kids to win, when, in reality, that’s not the reason a child participates in sports to begin with.
Unfortunately, too many of us lose sight of that.
The result is that kids are dropping out of sports physically, mentally and emotionally broken down. For some, a negative experience in sports can have a lifelong impact. (This is even true of high-performing, professional athletes who just happened to excel at a sport but haven’t loved playing that sport in decades.)
What Can Parents Do to Help Kids Love a Sport?
The biggest thing that parents can do to ensure their kids don’t become part of that 70 percent dropout rate is keep the big why in mind.
Ask your child, “Why did you choose to participate in ____”
Chances are, they loved hanging out with their friends. Or they thought it was fun. Or they loved a challenge.
Next, mom and dad, ask yourself why you encouraged your child to participate in the sport.
Was it to stay active? Learn teamwork? Have a fun social activity in a positive environment? Learn grit and resilience and integrity?
What is YOUR “why”?
Now ask yourself, is any of those reasons so that your child could win, specifically?
I’m going to go out on a limb and say that your answer is ‘No.’
Keeping those “whys” at the forefront of your mind, guiding your behavior and decisions, will go far towards ensuring your child doesn’t become part of the group that drops out by middle school.
Final Thoughts on Why Kids Quit Sports
Kids don’t play sports because they’re focused on winning. They play because they love the activity and the time with friends.
But unfortunately, we often create a sports ecosystem that doesn’t benefit kids, a system where parents and coaches are overly focused on winning games and taking home trophies.
And as a result, more and more athletes are broken down physically and emotionally.
As parents, the best thing we can do to ensure our child has a long and happy sports career is to keep the big ‘why’ in mind at all times, filtering our behavior and actions through that.
The most important thing isn’t that our kids win the big game. It’s that they’re happy and healthy and walking away from a sport with the life skills, both performance and moral, that will benefit them the rest of their lives.