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Find out what they find fun about their sports — and what they don’t enjoy. Then you can start to adjust their experience.
Over the last decade, the number of kids participating in youth sports has been declining. In fact, 70 percent of young athletes will drop out of organized sports by the time they turn 13.
And research — like the 2014 George Washington University study — has found that the reasons kids are leaving youth sports are similar to their motives for turning to video games. They want action, freedom to make mistakes without fear of backlash, socialization with friends and control over their own activity.
Most importantly, they just want to have fun.
Researchers asked young athletes to define what is fun about sports, offering 81 different reasons. Surprisingly, they found that young athletes care more about playing and being part of the action than they do winning. The top six reasons were:
And the bottom of the list is even more eye-opening: winning (No. 48); playing in tournaments (No. 63); earning medals or trophies (No. 67); and traveling to new places to play (No. 73).
Let that sink in for a second — kids just don’t care about winning. They aren’t driven by the competitive culture that has consumed youth sports. But in a world of elite club/travel teams and early recruiting, what can parents do to make sports fun again?
When young athletes do have a passion for sports, it can help them mentally, socially and psychologically as they develop, according to the Michigan Study of Adolescent Life Transitions. Plus, they’re eight times more likely to be active at age 24 than non-athletes.
Keeping the focus on your young athlete and their individual needs can help foster their passion for sports. After all, their happiness is more important than a trophy.