This weekend, Little League, America’s greatest youth pastime starts back up! Boys and girls all over the country will don their new uniforms that are slightly too big for them and embark on a three month journey that some will think is the greatest thing on earth, some will be indifferent and think it’s alright, and some will enjoy and never want to play again. The interesting thing is that, these decisions will largely have nothing to do with skill level. It is all about the experience the kids will have. It will be about the bonds they have with their teammates, the snacks after the games for some, their relationship with the coach, and the support the receive from their parents. According to the National Alliance of Youth Sports, 70 percent of kids playing organized sports quit by the age of 13 because it’s not fun anymore.
I know many of you are thinking that it is the kids that are riding the bench and not the greatest athletes are the ones quitting. That is not true. In my coaching career, I have seen players walk away at the high school and Division I level that were getting plenty of playing time and were contributing to the team at a high level. Their hearts just weren’t in it anymore. I have also seen a few, not all, of those former players get involved with less than exemplary habits off the court as a result of all the extra free time on their hands and a lack of accountability that came from being on a team.
In order to lower that dropout statistic of 70%, here are a few ways to keep kids having fun and playing sports.
Make it Fun!- Duh!!! I know many of you are saying, “How can it be fun wen we are losing every game?” That is hard. I have struggled with that during a few losing seasons. The crazy thing is that kids forget the losses way easier than parents or coaches and there is so much more to the game than the score. For the little guys, the parent tunnels, silly cheers or chants, and supportive parents and coaches that are focusing on effort, rather than results go a long ways. For the older kids, the team bonding such as pizza parties, high fives after every play, and even a fun chant or two can change a rough experience into a great one and help them realize that winning isn’t everything.
Be flexible- Let them choose what sport they want to play. When I was younger, my dad made play a third year of soccer, even though I had no desire to play and I just wanted to play basketball. I was miserable all season and never wanted to play soccer again after that season. Who knows, I may have come back to it later. However, if they commit to a season, they should finish it out but commit to a season, not a career.
Let them play at their level- Not every child wants to play at the highest level out there. Many just want to get some playing time, play with their friends, and have fun. Sitting on the bench for the best team in town may not yield as great of an experience as starting on a mediocre team. (Also, they probably won’t improve as much sitting on the bench!)
Stay Positive- There is so much more to sports than winning and losing. Sports are a great avenue to learn about teamwork, perseverance, sportsmanship, hard work, discipline, social skills, etc. When our focus is on these things, it takes the unnecessary pressure off the kids.
At Next Level, we want to keep kids playing sports in a positive and pressure-free environment while giving them the opportunity to learn from 805’s best coaches. Registration is now open. Sign up today and save $20 on camp admission for the week with promo code,” SUMMER.”