Is Youth Sports in the US Dying
You may be among the lucky few who pay thousands of dollars per year to keep the $16 Billion+ elite youth sports industry alive and well, but as the great Sherlock Holmes, a fictional private detective imagined by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, would point out: it's the stuff we're not seeing that often provide the best evidence. Local community fields are empty. Childhood obesity rates in the US are up. Real talent is going undiscovered and undeveloped. What's more is the lessons that the simple life, family, and community-based lessons that youth sports are intended to deliver are being overshadowed by screaming parents, sexy uniforms, professional turf fields, and win-at-all-cost approaches to the game. Public Enemy #1 - Pay to PlayThe youth sports industry is a $16+ Billion with a B industry. Uniforms, shoes, fields, equipment, coaches earning a living... it's big business. If you're on a travel team and driving around a tri-state area to play soccer games, you might believe that youth sports is hugely successful. By measure of business or by how efficient it has gotten in its ability to vacuum money out of family wallets, it is! But if you are not seeing beyond the bubble of those who can afford to pay, then you're missing some really important stuff. Community youth fields are empty. Childhood obesity is up. Kids who are playing are getting bad signals from both sides of the sidelines & some of those kids are now old enough to be cutting you off in traffic!It's not that youth sports isn't booming business. It's that families who don't have the means to buy into that business are being left behind or discouraged. I see it every season on my recreation fields. Numbers for recreational soccer in my are have been dropping by 17% to 33% per season. A lot of these kids are simply not playing anymore. Please: support the show and join our community as a Patron through my Patreon pageProblem #2 - Over Served KidsWhile there are many kids who are underserved or not served at all in some communities, there is a growing number of kids who are over-served. The main characteristic of an over-served kid is one who is served a sport in excess. They may be specialized (aka limited to only one sport or one position) too early. They may be forced to practice more often than is recommended for their age group. They may be pressured by parents who are spending in excess for the sport and consequently becoming attached to outcomes that the kid didn't buy into - or, like most kids, changed their mind about after a while. Over served kids burn out. They get too much or have an experience that is too intense, and they quit. Across the United States, the average dropout age is 14. By 14-years-old, 70% of kids in America are dropping out of youth sports. Some of this can be attributed to the pay-to-play issue we already talked about, but many in this category are burned out. I myself did well in High School swimming, but we worked out twice per day during the season, and often on Saturdays. Our team trained like a college team and it was too much. Despite an offer from several colleges to come swim for them, I was burned out. I stayed away from swimming for years and didn't get back in the water again seriously until my time in the Navy. Burnout is a real thing. Problem #3 - Under Served KidsThe most obvious population of kids we think about as being underserved are the ones who come from families who can't afford the high cost of playing team sports. Maybe mom and dad don't have time to drive their young player around.
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