Why are kids walking away from youth sports?

WASHINGTON — The number of children playing team sports continues to fall in the U.S., leaving experts to ponder reasons for such decline.

Softball, soccer, baseball, basketball and touch football are especially affected. Recent statistics by the Sports & Fitness Industry Association show a 4 percent drop in team sports participation from 2009.

Some say the decline is due to a shifted focus in the suburbs, where children are playing fewer sports and less talented athletes are stuck in recreational leagues with poor coaching.

In football, in particular, there’s widespread concern over the long-term impact of concussions. As a result, some parents keep their kids away from the sport.

November 29, 2021 | Fewer kids are playing youth sports ( Mark Hyman, a sports management professor at George Washington University)

Elsewhere, 70 percent of kids quit team sports by age 13 because they’re already burned out from years of athletic competition.

Kids who stick with youth sports after the age of 13 usually don’t have good places to play. So they get frustrated and leave sports altogether.

“If 70 percent of people walked out of a department store and said, ‘We’re never going back there again,’ then that store would be doing business very differently the next day,” Mark Hyman, a sports management professor at George Washington University, told WTOP. “Yet in youth sports, we seem very content with the status quo.”

So as participation drops in youth sports, kids miss out on physical activity and important life lessons — sportsmanship, perseverance and teamwork, Hyman said.

“The kids who are dropping out are really not having the opportunity to learn these lessons,” he concluded. “I think that alone is the reason to rethink the way we’re organizing sports and try to encourage kids to continue.”

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