Is The Pressure to Perform Too Much for Youth Athletes?

2014-03-25T15:29:16-04:00Coaching, Parenting|

We’ve talked a lot about how 75% of kids quit playing youth sports by the time they are 13 and what we as parents and coaches can do to reverse that trend and keep kids involved in sports longer. Dave Holt made a fantastic point on our post about not forcing kids to play a particular sport (or any sport for that matter);

I would just add that I think most kids drop out at 13 and 14 because athletically they cannotIs The Pressure to Perform Too Much for Youth Athletes? play the games very well. Most sports especially baseball gets really hard to play at this age. Nobody wants to be embarrassed because they can’t hit the out of the infield or throw the ball across the field. When we are not very good at something we look for other things to try. And there is nothing wrong with that…we just have to get the parents to realize they are not going to go pro.

Dave makes a really interesting point. As kids get older and the level of competition increases in youth sports, some players might realize that their teammates can run a little faster, throw a little farther, or hit a little harder. The differences in skill level might not actually be that great, and something that perhaps a little extra practice time could make up for, but if a player is nervous about looking good in front of their teammates they might decide it’s better to quit and “save face” rather than be thought of as the weakest player on the team.

Is this pressure to perform something that kids are putting on themselves? Possibly. After all, most Junior High aged kids want nothing more than to fit in with their friends and classmates. Being part of sports team is a great way to make friends and fit in with a larger group, but if a player feels like they aren’t good enough to be a part of the team maybe they would rather do something else rather than look uncool. No one likes to embarrass themselves and once kids hit a certain age they become much more aware of how they are different from their friends and teammates, especially on teams where competition is high. When kids are learning the fundamentals everyone is basically on the same page, but as players grow and develop athletically little differences in skill levels start to emerge. And who wants to be known as the worst player on the team?

On the other hand, maybe it’s the parents that are pushing their kids to join teams that a little too competitive and too high-powered for their son or daughter, and the players never really feel comfortable being part of that team. Maybe their son or daughter doesn’t really want to play soccer year round, or doesn’t like being a part of XYZ team (because of the coach or their teammates or the time commitment), or would rather be playing another sport but they don’t want to let their parents down. Most kids just want mom and dad to be proud of them, and if playing on a high-powered team is the way to make that happen then they’ll do it. Could that pressure to play be what causes so many kids to quit youth sports so early on? At some point they are so worried about embarrassing their parents by not being good enough they would just rather quit?

What do you think? Are kids putting too much pressure on themselves or are we parents the ones laying down the pressure?