Why the Youth Dropout Rate is so high in Sports?
According to the national Alliance for youth sports, 70% of youth dropout of sports by age 13. This means that 7 out of every 10 athletes will not play after middle school. This would not be accepted in any other field, so why is it acceptable in youth sports? Most youth play sports to have fun and to be around their friends, so why are coaches making that so hard? I can easily write a book on this subject, but I’ll just list a few reasons for the high dropout rate.
Sports is a Punishment
Many youth athletes view certain sports or coaches as punishment/punishers. When asked, they talk about all the running or various forms of torture they went through. This punishment/conditioning often times comes as a result of unqualified coaching. When a coach can’t properly teach a skill, whether it’s regressing or progressing it to fit the level of the athlete, they resort to conditioning/punishment to make up for their own inadequacies. This waste practice time, does not improve any skill, and often times makes kids hate a sport that maybe they would’ve loved if given the opportunity to play under a “good coach”.
Focus on competition and early bloomers rather than skill development
What normally happens is that the early bloomers or the kids who are more physically mature receive all the attention and extra playing time and the kids who are smaller than the rest or who are not as skilled, normally receives less attention and also less playing time. This is a flawed approach, because often times the late bloomers have a longer athletic career than the “youth stars”. Also this causes many youth to quit sports because they aren’t getting any better and really aren’t getting any opportunities to improve.
The focus of youth sports, especially elementary and middle school age kids, should be skill development and learning how to play the game. Competitions should only come after the most basic skills have been mastered. Instead, we have a bunch ego driven coaches (most who are unqualified) who are only concerned with winning and recruiting the best 4th grader for their team. Parents are also partially to blame, but that’s a topic for another day.
I touched on this lightly already and in a previous article, but there are probably ten times more unqualified coaches in youth sports than qualified coaches. Since there are no regulations in youth or high school sports outside of a background check, anybody who played, are interested in sports, or just like being around kids can be a coach. This is a problem, because there are certain periods in a child’s life when they need to be exposed to certain skills and activities to reach their full athletic potential later on. There are certain age appropriate training and practice drills that are being misused or not used at all. There are certain things that are said to children that could affect them far after the sport is over, but how will the coach know this? I could go on and on, but I digress.
I recommend that there be some type of certification process for sport coaches or a way to monitor coaching performance. I don’t have all of it mapped out so I don’t know every detail of making this happen. I do know there needs to be a radical shift in the way we coach youth athletes.
Thanks for reading!
Josh Gray BS, CSCS, NASM CES, USATF 1
Owner of Gray's Academy LLC