Most kids quit organized sports by age 13 and it might not be the worst thing
As I write this, I have the weather channel on in the background. I am monitoring the rain, torn between hoping it arrives before 11 am and wanting it to hold off long enough for my five-year-old to have his last little league game of the year. It’s Sunday morning, and despite the fact that participating on the baseball team is good for him, I wouldn’t mind staying put with my coffee.
Even if his last game does get rained out, he’ll play again next year. I still have control over that. And besides, he is really starting to like it. He’s five, so he doesn’t like it enough to not occasionally sit down in the infield during the game, or spend his time on the dugout whining about wanting a snack, but he likes it more than he did at the start of the season. It probably helps that he’s getting better at playing too. He can hit, and he can throw, and sometimes he even stops a ball from getting past him! Again, he’s five. It’s not about competition.
Eventually, when he’s older, it will be. And when it is, he might not be interested. He might be one of the 70% of kids that stop playing organized sports by age 13, according to a new poll. But I kind of think that’s okay, depending on the reasons.
Right now, at five, participation is important. Kids that young need youth sports; they encourage teamwork, provide exercise, teach discipline, and practice, etc. It’s their first exposure to the kinds of games and physical activity that will be a part of their lives, one way or another, for a long time. If they don’t start early, they’ll never have a chance to develop a potential passion or aptitude for them. My son will be playing little league and parks and rec sports for the foreseeable future.
But when he’s older? I’m fine with him bailing – so long as it’s for the right reasons.
If he stops enjoying them because of overbearing parents, because a culture based on nothing but results that saps all the fun out of the game? Then that’s on us. According to the Changing The Game Project, that’s happening more than ever.
“There are five main reasons kids walk away from sports, and they all boil down to one common denominator: they cause kids to have a poor state of mind when it comes to sports.”
The post goes on to state a loss of fun, riding the bench, and fear of mistakes as reasons kids quit, and those reasons are unacceptable. They’re usually imposed by adults who are teaching kids the wrong things about the game. Most teams aren’t playing for real stakes, not until the kids get older and into high school. And until then, if it’s not fun, it’s not going to be easy to keep them interested. And it’s our job to do that.
Eventually though, and probably around the time my son turns 13, I’m going to be okay with letting him decide to do something else, so long as he actually does something else.
If he stops enjoying organized sports because he has other passions, or discovers he doesn’t have the skills to compete with the other kids, or just isn’t as cutthroat as kids at the junior high and high school levels are, that’s fine. He can find exercise and teamwork and camaraderie, and he can experience success and failure, and he can learn discipline and humility via plenty of other pursuits.
Playing competitive sports isn’t for everyone; I stopped when I was in high school. Physically I didn’t match up anymore, and it was disheartening to be on the bench every single game. I didn’t stop playing pick-up games with friends, or intra-murals in college, but that wasn’t about winning. That was about playing and having fun. Unless your kid is on the fast-track to the pros, fun is what it’s all about. If organized sports stop being fun for my teenager, I’m happy to let him find his bliss elsewhere.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go force my son to put his baseball uniform on. It’s not raining yet, and he’s not 13 yet, so it’s game on.
h/t Washington Post