Organized sports, once touted as a grandiose, honorary position for a child, especially in their parents’ eyes, have become ever more competitive over the years and involve more commitment in time and finance for parents and young athletes ever.
Because of this and other factors, a report from the Aspen Institute shows a trend of kids becoming more and more disinterested in organized sports whatsoever with a fall from 45% in 2008 to 38% in 2018 of children aged 6-12.
As a young athlete ages, garners more skills, and invests more time into a sport, especially an organized one with aspirations of collegiate and/or professional play long-term, that same athlete will encounter an exponential growth of competition.
As a young athlete encounters this new level of competition year after year, one can easily see how a youth would become disinterested, especially if the child is not competitive by nature. Competitiveness is not necessarily a trait that can be bred into a young athlete. Rather, it is far more likely for this trait to be innate to the individual.
Pandemic Induced Resignation
The pandemic could also cause a rise in disinterest in organized sports as it allowed parents and children to see another way of life. Children have become accustomed to gaming on their computers as well as have had the time to discover individual sports since social distancing measures prevented more traditional organized sports. Parents have also become accustomed to relaxing at home on weekends rather than having to travel unseemly hours for another game or tournament.
The pandemic affected everything from traditional social interactions to workplace environments, but the most concerning is the impact on family finances. With certain club and travel sports requiring anywhere from $1,000 to $10,000, families simply did not have the financial means to allow their child to play. Children would then find themselves at home more often to find their own ways to play in unstructured environments of their own accord.
Changing Sports Environments
Even though a trend exists of children becoming more disinterested in organized sports, children still show interest in the sports realm, if only running, swimming, surfing, or other more individualized sports.
In the end, the trend shows that children exhaust themselves for the sake of their parents’ wishes since most children participate in sports for collegiate scholarships and/or professional pay. If these desires are truly the young athletes’ wishes, then encouragement should be given at any opportunity.
However, the pandemic and this trend show that children enjoy being children, playing with their own imaginations rather than having to worry about their batting swing, pitching arm, shooting follow-through, kicking technique, etc.
Teenagers that have the competitive nature, have been engrossed in the sport since a young age, have showed a true passion for the sport, and have yearned for elite level of play and opportunities are more likely to still remain interested in organized sports. School-sanctioned sports are returning, allowing these adolescent athletes to showcase their skills for collegiate scholarships and/or professional compensation.
Let the Kids be Kids
Children between the ages of 6-12 should be taught athletic foundations in sports with the most dedicated set to learn the more advanced and elite level techniques when they are older in their teen years. In the meantime, let them utilize their own imagination and have fun playing a game.