Is The Pressure Too Much?
#DontRetireKid – Project Play has kicked off a national campaign raising the awareness on why kids are quitting sports and every parent, coach, and person connected with youth sports should know about this effort.
When the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) starts publishing articles on how crazy youth sports has become, maybe we have all gone overboard and we can’t or don’t want to realize it.
The WSJ headline was “Youth Sports Have Gotten Too Crazy. They Should Relax.” Kids are walking away from the action early—the solution may be turning down the volume.
Is the desperate search to be proud in the FIFA Men’s World Cup disproportionately whacked out our sense of the sheer enjoyment of the game? Are the goals of today’s coaches to develop a Christian Pulisic-like player pushing the bounds of common sense? What about the ultra-competitive parents who insist on endless training in the pursuit of a scholarship?
The average kid quits youth sports at age 11 — most often because the sport just isn’t fun anymore.Aspen Institute / Utah State University Families in Sports Lab
Whether a kid plays in the Little League World Series or the U.S. Soccer Development Academy playoffs, there is incredible pressure on our young athletes to consistently perform at peak levels … an accomplishment professional players struggle with and these adults are paid to do it.
According to the findings of a new national survey of parents of youth athletes conducted by the Aspen Institute with the Utah State University Families in Sports Lab, the average child today spends less than three years playing a sport.
Soccer parents, like all parents with kids playing sports, are also under pressure with sports skyrocketing costs.
In 2018, only 38% of kids ages 6 to 12 played team sports on a regular basis, down from 45% in 2008Sports & Fitness Industry Association (SFIA)
It is not just that the overall numbers are dropping, it is that critical mass of hysteria over whether a kid is good enough, and this is damaging an entire generation.
The Aspen Institute’s research states that “Above all, parents want sports to be fun for their children.”
Have these researchers been on the sideline of a competitive soccer game?
What parent at a competitive soccer game is thinking, “Oh, I hope my kid is having fun” … while they are screaming for their kid to run faster down the field?
These same parents also stated in the survey that they are looking for extrinsic rewards – admissions advantages to colleges, athletic scholarships, and pro sports opportunities. Isn’t that a bit of a conflict and a little unrealistic?
“Parents are the game-changers in youth sports,” said Tom Farrey, executive director of the Aspen Institute’s Sports & Society Program. “To keep kids playing longer, we need to help parents ask the right questions of themselves, their child, and their local sport providers.”
The research also reports that field hockey and lacrosse scored as the most stressful sports for kids — and, somehow youth soccer scored among the least stressful sports.
Once again, perhaps these researchers need to get out more often. Parents can become influenced by the competitive landscape and become worst offenders, placing huge pressure on kids — hurting these innocent young victims who they, in reality, really do want to protect.
While the findings in the recent Aspen Institute and the Utah State Families in Sports Lab study are not new in the world of elite youth soccer and perhaps are a bit argumentative, the stats reflect a serious problem that transcends the level of the game and even a particular sport.
America has gone over the edge pushing kids too far.
There is a big difference between nurturing the aspirations of a talented and dedicated, hard-working elite soccer player who dreams of going pro and making general competitive and even recreational
After all, if you don’t want to be an impact player who is going to help the USA win the world cup, why not just let the kid play and have fun.
If a youth player is happily willing to give up pizza, Oreos and going out to parties on the weekends, then let’s do everything we can to help him make his or her dream come true of playing at the highest level possible — but otherwise, let’s not let a generation of kids become the victims of the billion-dollar youth sports industry with its endless promises.
America needs life-long soccer fans, not kids who feel inadequate at the age of 11 and drop out of the sport because the hyper-competitive environment is toxic.
According to recent research, 45% of children today playing only one sport and it is obvious how this can easily lead to burn out.
Aspen Institute’s Jon Solomon offers great insights into the problem. Aspen Institute’s Project Play is working to keep kids in the game and there are many challenges. Navigating youth sports has always been confusing and frustrating, with parents often only knowing what they needed to know years too late. The Project Play Parent Checklists provide 10 simple questions that parents should ask —check out the Parent Check List.
youthdo not even get the recommended levels of one hour of daily physical activity.
Another interesting insight: For over a decade there has been a loud resounding cry on the high cost of club fees and travel costs. The Aspen Institute has recognized a deeper problem of the pay-to-play structure. It is not necessarily only the high cost of the playing but the pressure those dollars spent place on the players.
“For the parent who’s putting down $10,000 for their kid to play soccer, they see it as giving their kid every opportunity,” said Dr. Travis Dorsch, Utah State associate professor and founding director of the Families in Sport Lab, who designed the survey.
Citing a kid’s sense of pressure to perform, sometimes the big-ticket and high-pressure elite soccer clubs charging the big bucks are not really an asset for the player.
“But the kid may feel, ‘Oh my gosh, they’re putting down $10,000 and now I feel pressure to perform.’”Dr. Travis Dorsch, Utah State associate professor
Whatever the reasons are, the playing youth sports in the U.S. is in decline— and we must turn this ship around. The Aspen Institute’s Project Play 2020 “Don’t Retire, Kid” initiative, in which frustrated child athletes announce they are quitting youth sports is an amazing commercial spot that truly shines a bright light on the problem. As Derek Heyswiver in the answers when asked who can fix this problem … coaches, parents — all of us.
And it is up to all of us to come up with the answer.
And a special thanks to ESPN for addressing the crisis and bringing awareness to the issue by exclusively launching Don’t Retire, Kid.
“At ESPN we believe sports should be available to every child,” said Jimmy Pitaro, President of ESPN. “We want to shed light on this important issue so that kids can take advantage of the benefits of sports, from increased health to better outcomes in school. ESPN, together with our league and business partners, have committed to working together to address this issue.”
READ: YOUTH SOCCER: FUN AND COMPETITION CAN GO HAND IN HAND on John O’Sullivan’s Great Information for Soccer Parents and Youth Soccer Coaches