Repeat after me: youngsters HAVE to enjoy the game, their teammates, and their coach. Find the right fit!
According to the below Boston Globe article, “by age 15, as many as 80 percent of youngsters have quit, according to the Open Access Journal of Sports Medicine.
One reason is the gap between the child’s desire to have fun and the misguided notion among some adults that their kids’ games are a miniature version of grown-up competitions, where the goal is to win.”
And the below Washington Post article quotes a professor of sports management at George Washington University, Mark Hyman:
“If we wiped the slate clean and reinvented youth sports from scratch by putting the physical and emotional needs of kids first, how different would it look? Nothing would be recognizable.”
I don’t think it’s quite as bad as this quote implies, but we have to understand that there is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to youngsters. There is a broad range of personalities with specific personal interests and talent. Every youngster brings a different level of intensity and passion to a sport.
For some it’s primarily having fun with teammates they enjoy socially, with a coach who is laid back. And that’s great. The majority of youngsters fall into this category.
For others it might be much less about the social aspect and more about competing on the field with a coach focusing on performance. These more competitive youngsters get frustrated with teammates and coaches who aren’t focused enough during practices and don’t care too much about competing. They can’t wait for the next practice and get a buzz from an intense, fast-paced session. They get a buzz from competing at the top level.
So there is nothing inherently bad about an intense and competitive team culture, in fact some youngsters need this to enjoy the sport. My oldest daughter is like this.
The magic is in finding the right team and coach for each youngster and then supporting them no matter what level they are playing at. That’s the best way for everyone to enjoy the beautiful game and benefit from team sports.
I strongly suspect that many youngsters quit because of a mismatch between their preferences and the specific team/coach. And it’s typically the parents’ fault for not realizing this mismatch, accepting it, and then finding a better fit sooner rather than later.
Like for school we need to be closely engaged with our kids to help them successfully navigate the youth soccer landscape, encourage and support them, and not impose our own preferences on them.
Easier said than done, I know.