Who Are Youth Sports Really For?

Soccer-team-celebratesThink back to a time when youth sports were much simpler than travel teams and far-away tournaments. When backyard pickup games and neighborhood meet-ups were about fun – regardless of the lack of expensive equipment and skill.

The carefree spirit behind youth sports has taken a sharp competitive shift in the past two decades as it transformed into the $7 billion industry it is today.

The pressure put on youth sports players to be the best, work towards college scholarships, and advance to the highest possible performance level has hit an all-time high. After investing time and money on lessons, equipment, and travel it comes as no surprise that parents expect a return on their investment.

As a result, sports participation has experienced a drop-off in the suburbs attributable to the parent-driven focus on elite travel clubs and one-sport specialization.

The current set-up supports only the most talented players, leaving behind the recreational leagues with lower expectations and fewer advantages. According to the Washington Post, seventy percent of kids will quit sports by age 13.

The Post gives reason for this large drop-off with research from Amanda Visek, a professor at The George Washington University. Visek surveyed nearly 150 children about what they found most enjoyable about sports. Trying hard, positive coaching and learning outranked items like expensive equipment and playing in tournaments.

Many researchers, like Visek, are concerned about the majority of young athletes who want to play for fun and might get left behind in today’s competitive atmosphere due to skill level.

Large sports organizations have taken notice of this growing problem and have begun taking steps toward realigning the mindset of youth sports. U.S. Youth Soccer has introduced new soccer initiatives in an attempt to advance youth players’ individual skill and provide them with the best opportunity to improve.

Organizations can’t do it alone – coaches and parents need to re-evaluate how their teams are treating youth sports. Let’s work together to make sure young athletes are still having fun.

What have you found with your own personal experience? Let us know in the comments below!


Kris Baker

Kris Baker is the President of Demosphere and has been serving the Youth Sports Community since 2006.