Youth sports is big business. It is so huge that we can only guess at how large it has grown. I’ve seen estimates of over 21 million all the way to 35 million for kids ages 5-18.
That number may sound good but let’s look at the facts behind the big number.
- Kids are starting earlier and earlier. 67% of boys and 47% of girls are already on teams by age six (ESPN).
- Kids are getting busier. 51% of 3rd to 5th grade boys who live in the suburbs play on three or more teams (ESPN).
- Kids are defining themselves by their sports. 61% of all boys who play say that sports are a big part of who they are; 34% of girls say the same thing.
- Kids are quitting because they don’t have fun.The biggest reason kids quit sports is because they are not having fun (36% girls; 39% boys) (ESPN).
- Kids in the city have less opportunities to play sports. Urban boys and girls (39% and 28%) have less roster position available than rural boys and girls (50% and 63%) (ESPN).
- Kids (most of them) are not going pro. The odds? For high school football players, it’s 1 in 6,000; baseball, 1 in 4,000; basketball, 1 in 10,000. (USA Today)
- Kids want to play sports with friends. 65% of them participate in sports to be with friends. (USA Today)
- Kids aren’t as concerned about winning as adults. 71% said they wouldn’t care if no score was kept in their games (I’m guessing this was younger athletes). (USA Today)
- Kids enjoy sports more without pressure. 37% said they wished no parents would watch them play. (USA Today)
- Kids are not always treated respectfully. 45% said they had been called names, or insulted by coaches. (USA Today)
- Kids are getting coached by their dads. 85% of coaches are dads coaching their own kids. (USA Today)
- Kids’ sports participation declines with age. Most stopped playing at age 13 and most 8-12 year olds said they would stop at 13. (Sports Illustrated)
- Kids are learning good things from sports. 67% learned to be a team player, 67% met people they wouldn’t have otherwise met, and 42% developed discipline. (Sports Illustrated)
- Kids get injured when they play. More than 3.5 million children under age 14 receive medical treatment for sports injuries annually. According to the CDC, more than half of all sports injuries are preventable. (Sports Marketing Surveys)
- Kids are not always getting trained coaches. Only 1 in 5 coaches of youth teams of children under age 14 say they have been trained in effective motivational technique, and just 1 in 3 in skills and tactics in the primary sport they coach. (Sports Marketing Surveys)
There are many conclusions that can be drawn as we ponder these statistics. But one thing is pretty clear: Youth sports in and of itself can be a wonderful learning and growing experience for kids. It’s up to us adults to stop messing it up.
Does your child play sports? Show them this list and see if anything on it rings true for them. Let us know their response in the comments below.