Turning 13 is a big deal for kids. They begin the true coming of age process and their bodies start wholesale changes mentally, emotionally, and physically. Each child is different on when they start this maturation process as it doesn’t happen the day they turn 13. With these changes comes more desire for independence and a stronger focus on what a child likes to do for fun, hobbies, and sports. While all these changes are new and exciting for the child, they are not always so for parents.
Follow the story, your child plays soccer and basketball and has for the past 3 years in each sport. He or she is above average, has friends they hangout with in both sports, appears to enjoy practices and games, and is free from major injury. One day your child walks into the kitchen and announces they are done playing both sports. You are confused and maybe angry about this choice and ask why. The answer of “I’m just tired of it,” doesn’t satisfy you and you press on for a reason. Your pressing meets with more roadblocks then a final, loud expression of anger by your child and he or she stomps away to their room. You are still standing there dumbstruck and powerless, wondering what just happened and why.
Many sources report a 70% dropout rate of kids who quit sports at 13. This is not a new topic, but still one that continues to hold interest of parents, coaches, and teachers. In addition, there is not a single source problem or solution. One aspect that we at Movement Academy address is teaching sports specific skills to soon in a child’s physical development. We believe in the long term athletic development philosophy of teaching fundamental movement skills to ALL youth until the pubescent growth curve. The rationale is giving kids a stronger base of confidence and support in being athletic for life, not just playing a high level of competition in one sport. The Canadian Sport for Life model is the best worldwide model of this.
The financial impact of youth sports is now a multi billion dollar industry, and not especially regulated with a child’s health & safety as a primary goal. Parents pay 10% and sometimes more of their income for their 10 year old to travel every weekend and practice 4 nights a week for up to 2 hours per practice. While no science states this specialization at an early age makes children better, it certainly generates more revenue of which sports teams and clubs are not about to give up. Youth sports is now “Keeping up with the Joneses,” and the short intense rush ends up to be a long slow burn. The enjoyment and fun is too quickly replaced by the win now at all costs.
Wouldn’t it be great to have more recreational sports available till the age of at least 16? How much healthier would our society be with more kids being active for more years? Yes, winning and losing are important lessons to learn, this is not about the “participation trophy.” Instead, it’s about helping youth maintain a physically fit lifestyle where they can have fun playing sports they enjoy, even though they are not the top talent. Remember, less than 5% of kids get D1 scholarships. Sure, make wins and losses count, while continuing all the intangibles sports provide, just on a less win or die trying system. Lots of adult leagues exist in a variety of sports, no need to make a person wait 10-15 years before doing something they truly love again.
The sad truth is money makes the world go round, and this trend of sports specialization from the womb to feed someone’s wallet isn’t stopping soon. Parents, keep kids in multiple sports for their entire youth and make sure they are physically literate. You are the frontline and decide if Coach Joe Knowitall gets to coach your child. Encourage the fun and give your kids proper fundamental training before they go all in on something. You were once 10, and have memories of what made you love being on the field or court. Help your kids make those memories last longer and for a lifetime of being fit and active.
If you don’t agree or want to give support, contact Matt Peale at firstname.lastname@example.org. He wants to hear from you. Also check out his company Movement Academy.