How to Stop Kids Turning Away from Sports
Ask any professional Canadian sportsperson or junior league champ and they’ll tell you that they developed their passion at a young age. Getting and keeping kids interested in playing sports is essential to the future of the industry – and with more and more kids turning their backs on it, getting this right is becoming more important than ever.
However, according to Amy Bell in her CBC Radio One column Parental Guidance, the focus actually shouldn’t be on going pro at all. Instead, she is adamant that the focus needs to be on helping the children to have fun to keep them interested and ensure that their stress levels remain low.
Of course, many parents have dreams that if their children practice enough and show enough talent that they can one day grow up to become Canada’s next rising star. Sadly, with more and more kids opting out of sports altogether, it seems that some parents might be putting too much emphasis on success, and not enough on enjoyment.
Chronic Lack of Enjoyment Seen
A study conducted by True Sport, a local charity foundation, has revealed that 70% of local youth athletes are leaving team sports by the time they are old enough to attend high school. From there, a very high percentage of them never pick up a ball, bat, stick or racket again.
One of the primary reasons for this is that they are simply not enjoying the game any more. And they can’t really be blamed for this. With a heavy focus on early specialization, where a kid plays one kind of sport exclusively for as many as 9 months a year, it’s not hard to see why our youths are feeling emotionally and physically burnt out.
But how does society start to ensure that kids enjoy playing, not only when they are young, but also throughout their entire adult lives? Volleyball expert Emily Cordonier Carroll says that being active in general should form a crucial part of every childhood. However, she has warned that pumping too much money, time and energy into any one sport from a very young age can end up being a waste in many cases.
Parents Need to Focus on Fun
Cordonier Carroll has recommended that parents step away from the sidelines and allow their kids to play and try new things as they see fit. Naturally, the constant pressure to ‘go pro’ needs to go as well. She has urged adults to ensure that the children in their care are happy, healthy, avoiding burnout, and not being pushed to the point where they hate participating in sport.
Local golf coach Chris Lutes also advocates letting youths relax, enjoy themselves, become part of a team, and ‘play the field’, so to speak. In his words, you simply can’t turn someone into a champion, but you do have the power to ensure that you don’t permanently scar them by exerting more pressure than necessary.