Youth sports

One issue that constantly clouds youth sports is the unrealistic expectations many adults have that younger girls and boys will star in high school sports and earn scholarships to play in college. Many parents even believe their child will go on to become a professional athlete.

I hate to burst their bubble, but the facts say otherwise.

The National Council of Youth Sports has reported that more than 41 million girls and boys currently participate in some kind of organized youth sport annually – including school sponsored, YMCA, select or club team, etc. Experts estimate that more than 70 percent of children quit organized youth sports by age 13 or before they enter high school.

The top reasons youngsters choose to stop playing organized sports include:

• They are no longer interested.

• It’s not fun anymore.

• The coach played favorites, was a poor teacher or was too negative.

• It took up too much time.

• They want to participate in other activities.

• There was too much pressure involved.

What about the kids who do keep playing sports after junior high school? The NCAA currently reports that nearly 7 million girls and boys play sports in high school. Of these nearly 7 million participants, only about 126,000 student-athletes will receive either a partial or full athletic scholarship to play sports in college. That means less than 2 percent of all high school athletes will have the opportunity to translate their athletic success into financial assistance for college.

Let’s go one step further: Fewer than two out of every 100 high school athletes will go on to play sports at the professional level.

These facts might be hard to accept. There’s a high likelihood that your child will stop playing sports before he or she even enters high school. If your child does participate in high school sports, it’s highly unlikely that he or she will play college sports, let alone earn an athletic scholarship. And it takes a “perfect storm” – the right combination of a lot of talent, hard work and luck – for a youngster to go on and play sports professionally.

So why should kids stay in organized youth sports? The best answer is that young people can take away something that helps them grow and mature – if the activity they participate in is done right.

One of the greatest gifts kids can receive from their youth sports experience are new skills and lessons they can take with them and apply to other areas of their lives. Sure we want youngsters to learn more about sports and become better athletes. But in the end, it’s most important that they walk away from their sports experience as better people.

That’s why adults must focus their teaching on good character and sportsmanship while creating an environment that promotes the child-centered goals of fun, friends, fitness and participation.


Kevin Kush of Boys Town wrote this guest blog for momaha.comKush has been a teacher and coach for more than two decades and is widely recognized as an outstanding motivational speaker. He has been honored as an ABC News “Person of the Week” for leading his Boys Town High School team of at-risk youth to an undefeated regular season. He is also the co-author of "Competing with Character," where he examines the good and the bad going on today on youth playing fields, along the sidelines, and in the stands. "Competing with Character" is a guide to creating an environment where character, sportsmanship and fun are once again priorities youth sports. 

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