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A Video Every Sports Mom or Dad Must Watch

A Video Every Sports Mom or Dad Must Watch

Why Sports Participation Is Down

SILVER SPRING, MD – March 7, 2017 – ‘Core’ participation in team sports by children in the U.S. is down and that decline can partly be attributed to sports specialization at a young age.  According to research from Sports Marketing Surveys USA, ‘core’ participation in team sports by U.S. children is down in 10 out of 12 sports.  But why?  Because youngsters are specializing in one sport at too young of an age.  The major negative side effects of sports specialization have been highlighted by a video produced by authorities in Nova Scotia, Canada.  The video is targeting parents and coaches of young athletes, as well as athletes themselves.  For athletically inclined children, too much of a good thing (focusing on just one sport) at too young of an age can lead to a bad thing (injury or dropout due to mental ‘burnout’).  During the four-minute video, there’s footage of a fictional “Sports Parent Support Group” where grieving Canadian parents are seen talking about the demise of their child’s athletic careers, all at very young ages.10 of 12

While the tone of the video is somber and serious, it’s somewhat humorous because it draws attention to an issue that is prevalent in the U.S. and, evidently, in Canada, as well:  Sports specialization at a young age which often leads to athletes quitting sports at a young age due to mental burnout and/or overuse injuries.

The message to all parents of young athletes is clear. 

“Early sports specialization can hurt a child’s overall athletic development.”  And, it correctly points out that the main goals of playing sports are to have fun, learn socialization skills, and to learn what it’s like to be part of a team.  The main purpose of youth sports is not to train an athlete for a future in professional sports.

There are many accomplished athletes who have achieved success in sports because they did not focus on one sport until they enrolled in college.

“I think, hands down, that you need to play as many sports as possible,” says former U.S. Olympic softball great and current ESPN baseball analyst Jessica Mendoza.  “I think it’s important to kind of shut it down in one sport, as well.  For me, not playing softball year round allowed me to love and appreciate the season that I had for softball because I would be snowboarding in the winter, playing basketball, playing soccer, and doing other sports.  It was perfect cross training.  I was still staying in shape, but it allowed me to mentally get a break from the sport that I was serious about.”

Fellow U.S. Olympic teammate Jennie Finch agrees with Mendoza.

“I played all four years of high school volleyball, basketball, and softball, but, softball was always my most serious sport that would allow me to get to that next level,” says Finch.  “I think that by playing those other sports, it helped me physically, emotionally, and mentally.  It forced my body to do different things and helped me become more athletic and more ‘body aware.’  For me, so many positives came from playing other sports.  I think that’s why we are losing kids, as well, at a young age because we are making them choose (which sport to play) at a young age and they don’t know exactly how they are going to turn out and what their strengths are going to be.  So, the more you can expose them to as many choices on how to be a part of a team, the better off they will be.”

“Due to children specializing in one sport while in elementary school, it leads to athletes quitting sports before they graduate from high school because of physical and mental burnout,” says Mike May, director of communications, PHIT America.  “Sports specialization negatively impacts overall sports participation trends among young people in the U.S. Recent team sports participation trends confirm it.  Burnout leads to quitting which leads to sedentary behavior.”

“Team sports have long been an integral part of American culture – for boys and girls,” concludes Elliot Hopkins, director of sports, sanctioning, and student services, National Federation of State High School Associations.  “By dropping out and not playing team sports, girls and boys are missing out on the many benefits that come from participating in team sports, such as encouraging a healthy lifestyle, promoting self-esteem, goal setting, developing time management skills, experiencing teamwork, dealing with adversity, and, most importantly, having fun.”

At the end of the Canadian video, all of the parents in the “Sports Parents Support Group” stood up and recited the following:  “Kids who play more than one sport get more out of sports.”  The closing tagline – getmorefromsport.ca – provides you with more details on this issue of sports specialization.