Far too often coaches see young athletes leaving a beloved sport behind, not to step foot on a playing field ever again. These range from the most talented, to the not so talented and the ‘in-betweeners’ who all have special place in our youth sports teams. As a coach it becomes greatly disheartening to see personalities dwindle away. In this blog post I outline five main reasons as adapted from an international study.
A 10-year study on sport participation at schools in the USA, showed that 94% of children when growing older, dropped participation in at least one sport they had been involved in.
Here’s a look at the five main reasons:
The lack of fun for children is one of the most important reasons to quit a sport. Fun turned out also to be the main reason to continue with a sport in the early stages of participation.
Pressure is an important reason young elite athletes quit, often in combination with (overtraining-) injuries. It is important for sports academies/schools to find balance between the pressure to encourage young athletes and how to boost them to a long period to sustain participation. In addition it also makes sense to determine who or where the pressure is coming from.
A study of youth football players showed that more than 50% of the pressure came from parents, coaches, teammates and even their own pressure. Specifically, fathers often do not realize their own behaviour in directing pressure. Children experiencing these types of pressure often fall victim to fear of competition and withdraw from these situations.
Skill is an important factor but becomes more significant as children get older. Feelings of inadequacy is often specified as reason to stop participation. From a parental role, supporting younger athletes during this time is critical in maintaining participation. A study in perseverance, found that when children were supported by their parents by showing a concerning and understanding attitude, subsequently allowed them to reach a higher level.
Greatly evident in communities with socio-economic issues, participation in some sports are often seen as less attractive than the status of belonging to a ‘gang’, drug-use and criminal activities. Financial rewards in sport may take years to achieve, and circumstances may force athletes in poverty stricken areas to provide for their families in ways involving criminal activity. These are reasons echoed across the world, where highly talented athletes simply did not participate in organised sport. Perhaps due to lack of psychological support (parents, coaches, school teachers or mentors).
As coaches is it important to remember these reasons, as the most unlikely participant in your team could be the next Messi, the next club captain or the director of the next eta College. It is our responsibility as coaches to ensure that players are always supported and welcomed into our teams, for all we know, the team they play in may be the only thing that brings them joy.
You have the opportunity to transform the youth and change lives, make sure it’s for the better!