It is hard to venture out to any youth sports fields these days and not think to ourselves “There is something wrong with this picture.” Youth sports do not look like they did 20 or 30 years ago. Sure there were a few ‘crazy’ coaches and over the top parents, but for the most part kids still ‘played’ sports. It was fun. They were fearless. There were no cameras streaming 10 year old baseball games live online. There were not high school basketball coaches lining up for the signature of the next great middle school recruit. And we certainly did not watch commercials telling us that we need $300 soccer shoes and $400 baseball bats if we hoped to compete next weekend. Thing shave changed, and not only in sports, but throughout our country.
One of the biggest changes is the massive increase in sedentary, non athletic lifestyles in our country. And one of the main reasons for the decrease in activity is the staggering number of kids who drop out of sports at a young age. An incredible 70% of kids drop out of organized athletics by age 13. Seventy percent! Some drop due to financial constraints, others due to time constraints, but most stop playing because it just isn’t fun anymore. The people responsible for this, and the only ones who can change it, are the adults, and that means you and me.
We face quite a few challenges if we plan on trying to move the bar and get the adults out of our kids’ games. Youth sports is a multi billion dollar industry now, with many corporations, hotels, small businesses, even entire cities, dependent upon the youth sports industry. The entities competing for players and their dollars have driven up the price, and the stakes, of youth sports. The corporations that provide athletic opportunities, run events, and sell equipment, count on sports to improve their bottom line. And parents, often against their better judgment, are forced to keep up, or made to feel guilty that they have cost their child a college scholarship, or a shot at the pros.
It’s time to give youth sports back to our kids. It’s time to put the ‘play’ back in ‘play ball.’ Our kids need us to make sports safe again, to let them have fun, and to learn about healthy risk taking. Let’s change the game in American youth sports!