Did you know that 70% of kids quit sports by the age of 13.
In a world where 1/3 of American children are overweight, we as coaches have a major say in the health of our youth and the future of our country. It is critical that we have a great understanding of why kids play sports and why they quit.
As strength coaches we have to learn how to answer this age old question from parents: “Do we need to specialize in (insert sport here) with our kid who is 10? If he doesn’t play on a Summer team and go to select camps in the off-season, will he be left behind, won’t make the travel team, or get passed up by his teammates?”
This is a question that a lot of parents bring up as they want the best for their child’s athletic development but specialization is not always the best answer.
Here are the facts on specialization:
- Children who specialize in one sport at an early age are more likely to burnout due to stress, decreased motivation, and lack of enjoyment.
- The Ohio State University found that children who specialize early in a single sport led to higher rates of adult physical inactivity.
- Children who specialize in a single sport account for 50% of overuse injuries in young athletes according to pediatric orthopedic specialists.
- In a study from Loyola University of 1200 youth athletes, single sport athletes were 70-93% more likely to be injured than athletes who played multiple sports.
Specialization may seem like a great idea at first. Parents will see their kids become very good at a sport at a young age, but they don’t see the above facts that come along later with specialization and later lead to quitting.
Kids quitting sports boils down to one common theme: kids quit sports because they have a poor mindset about sport.
9 out of 10 times kids quit sport because sports are no longer fun. I find it interesting that Michael Jordan had a “love of the game” clause in his contract allowing him to play pickup basketball. Of the top 100 reasons kids play sports, winning was #48, FUN was #1.
Another big reason why kids quit sports is because they feel disrespected. As coaches ourselves, we have a major say in this. A 2014 study from George Washington University found that “Respect and Ecouragement was the #1 characteristic of a coach, followed up by being a positive role model, communicating clearly, having knowledge of the sport, and listening.”
As you can see, the positive influence that we have on our youth comes down to more of being a good person, being knowledgeable of the sport, and making sure that they have fun, rather than driving them into the ground practice after practice, and game after game.
When we look at the top athletes in the world, they too took time to learn skills in other sports and many of them still do to this day. Check out the chart below from the 2000 Olympic games and the “Average Number of Sports Played Among Olympians by Age.”
AGE – AVERAGE NUMBER OF SPORTS PLAYED
- 10 and Under – 3.11
- 10-14 – 2.99
- 15-18 – 2.2
- 19-22 – 1.27
- 22 and Up – 1.31
Even the top college athletic programs are starting to hop on board with understanding youth development. Of the 47 football recruits by Urban Meyer at The Ohio State University, an astonishing 42 of them were multi-sport athletes in high school.
So when should kids start specializing in a single sport then? Some studies have shown that most team sports peak at age 20. These are most of the athletes that we train here at Fitness Quest 10. Also, by age 20, this study suggests that an athlete needs to obtain 10,000 hours of training. HOWEVER, of these 10,000 hours, no more that HALF needs to be in their specific chosen sport. This is something that we have a MAJOR say over. More time to develop skills, more time to get fit, and more time to have FUN.
Fitness Quest 10 Personal Trainer & Sports and Conditioning Coach
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