The National Alliance for Youth Sports states that of the roughly 40 million boys and girls playing sports in America, approximately 75 per cent will drop out by the time they are 13. According to a University of Maryland critical survey on youth and sports in America, every year the attrition rate is 35 per cent, and by the age of 11 most of the better players will get channelled off to select travel team opportunities. Other players drift to different interests as they approach adolescence. Bad experiences also contribute to kids dropping out of sports, but there are a few things parents and coaches can do to keep kids interested in youth sports.
- Skill level:
- Moderately Challenging
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Take away the focus on winning and replace it with skill development and fun. Cut down on the amount of games and tournaments played. Set adult expectations aside and figure out what it is that the children need from playing organised sports, and then start serving those needs. Seek out low-cost, no-travel house league programs.
Access professionals who can help you set up action committees in your area. For help, look up helpful websites like Bobbigelow.com (see Resources). Bigelow is a former NBA player who helps communities restructure their sports programs. He believes that the current focus on adult sports models for kids is not in kids' best interests, and he is a proponent of learning new skills, participation, fun and properly managed competition.
Decrease the gruelling hours committed to the sport. Limit the burnout factor for young players by encouraging other interests, whether it be in other sports, music or art. When the time devoted to your kids' sports starts to interfere with them just being kids, pull back the reigns a bit and let them enjoy simply playing in the driveway with friends. Kids can pick up a lot about sports by creatively playing on their own or with friends, unencumbered and with no coaching.
Tips and warnings
- Reduce your own emotional involvement by eliminating the "helicopter parent" syndrome. Don't watch every practice and every game. Give yourself a break and head for the coffee machine as a reprieve from constantly analysing and hyper-focusing on your child's performance.
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