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The Youth Sports Pyramid: Why Kids Stop Playing

Sunday, 27 April 2014 00:00

By NaturallyFun Author: Wendy Parker

As sports administrators we are asked daily why kids have stopped playing youth sports. Besides an obvious technology take-over, there are other reasons kids stop playing sports. Youth sports surveys point to three reasons kids stop playing. The biggest reason being: Sports are no longer "fun".

Fun has been taken out of youth sports. Screaming parents, demanding coaches and the overwhelming need to perform at everyone else's level, except their own, has pushed thousands of kids off the sports fields and onto the sofa. Kids are benched during games with little to no play if they are less talented than others on a team. Talk about adults fostering feelings of inadequacy in children! It's sad that at age 10 kids feel washed up from playing sports.

Willie Stargell once said, "It's supposed to be fun, the man says 'Play Ball' not 'Work Ball' you know." In today's ultra competitive world some things must remain pure and teach more than just winning. The challenge of the sport is far more the greater victory than the results on the scoreboard.

There are programs which offer greater challenges for children who possess the aptitude, attitude, skills and desire to play at a higher level. For other programs the emphasis is on providing recreational activities (sports) to others whose measure of success is participating at their level rather than performing at expected levels.

The youth sports pyramid is based on five levels participants go through when playing sports.

This level introduces the child to the very basics of team sports. As early as age 3, children can get exposed to athletics. The instincts of a child are to run, kick and throw.
This level is the experimental level. A child might have started in soccer and then go to baseball, football, gymnastics, cheerleading or any other activity.
At this level the skills for a specific sport becomes the main emphasis. Kids become overwhelmed and frustrated since many can no longer keep the pace.
Tryouts, performance and personal experiences determine whether a child continues or drops.
Moving on with the select concept in the next level. Most teams take the top 5% of their team and add from other teams to become more elite.

There has always been a separation in performance over the years. The issue has become that the age of the separation has gotten younger and younger. Kids are dropping from sports because the exclusion has started at an earlier age and programs have established themselves as elite. Many of these programs are not elite and it's unfortunate that our youth are being pressured at ages 6-7 to perform at a level of 12 year olds.

At the City of Arlington Parks and Recreation Department, our focus has always been on the development of our youth on and off the field. The department's "Playing is Winning" philosophy was introduced in 2005 with a premise that all participants win by participating in recreational sports. Our program goal focuses on the child and their involvement instead of the scoreboard. After all, team sports provide much more than a win/loss record. Sports leagues builds character, teaches teamwork, improves social skills and involves them in physical activities while having fun.

At the end of the season, each participant receives an award not for their W-L record but because of their continued involvement in sports. This seems to be a hot topic right now of whether awards should be given for certain age groups. For our program, we will continue to hand out the trophies and medals each season. After all, we are a recreational league focusing on the physical fitness and development of our youth. These awards don't represent a win against all other teams, it represents the teamwork of a season through the support of your coach, players, team mom and any other person that assisted during the nine week season. Life will be full of wins and losses, now is the time to build the foundation to help them overcome the hurdles.

For more information on Arlington Althetics' programs call us at (817) 459-5482 or email at!

Last modified on Sunday, 27 April 2014 02:00
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