ESPN and the Aspen Institute have launched a new digital campaign to keep kids on the playing field. The #DontRetireKid campaign aims to tackle the problem of kids dropping out of sports before age 11. On average, kids only play sports for less than 3 years before they drop out. And only 45% of youth participate in a sport. The Aspen Institute dug into this trend a bit more to try and identify and understand the modern day challenges that young athletes and parents are facing. The Aspen Institute’s Project Play 2020 initiative, has identified eight ways we can encourage young players to keep playing.
Though it might seem that kids who aren’t winning might be more motivated to quit, the study proved that winning was one of the last motivators for kids who play sports. One of the main reasons that kids stop playing is because of the pressure that comes from their parents and coaches. Another main issue is that sports aren’t equally accessible for all young people. Lower income homes prove to be half as likely to have children who participate in sports. To make matters worse, girls drop out at twice to rate of boys.
Many organizations and athletes are joining the campaign and doubling down on their efforts to keep kids in the game. Kobe Bryant shared his thoughts, “Every kid is different…every kid develops differently…The most important thing is continuing to do the work and, as parents, not to get frustrated…Sit back and let them develop at their own pace.” Unfortunately, coaches are determining too early on - as young as 8 and 9 years old - that young athletes aren’t cut out for sports. The best thing we can do is to encourage kids to play sports and play a variety of them. There is no reason, contrary to what it might seem like, for kids to specialize in sports. It is unhealthy for their bodies as well as their minds. Lastly, we have to constantly remind young athletes that sports are fun first.
Why We Like It
The inherent message of the #DontRetireKid campaign is positive and one we can all get on board with. Yet, the best part of the campaign is that it is based on real data collected from the Aspen Institute. Metrics are vital to any social change undertaking, and thanks to the Aspen Institute and their partners, we finally have concrete data on the state of youth sports in the United States. Further, we have assessed the exact challenges kids face, as well as the very reasons they are quitting. The campaign offers four very concrete action items for keeping kids on the playing field: 1. Ask kids what they want. 2. Reintroduce free play. 3. Encourage sports sampling. 4. Train all coaches. So, not only do they tell us what the problem is, but they give us practical steps to help. To learn more visit https://www.aspenprojectplay.org.
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