Intense training schedules. Pressure to win and be the best. Painful injuries. Given all these factors, it’s not surprising that some athletes simply burn out on their sport. But what is shocking to many in the field are the young ages at which this is increasingly happening -- sometimes as early as 9 or 10.
The scenario often goes something like this: Eager to nurture the next A-Rod or Michelle Kwan, parents enroll their 5- or 6-year-olds in a competitive sports league or program. Over the next few years, training intensifies and expands to the off-season, making practice essentially year-round. Youngsters may join more than one league or a traveling team. They may have to sacrifice ...view middle of the document...
'It's not fun anymore'
Kids with a strong internal drive may thrive on the competition. But the pressure can be too much for others, particularly grade-schoolers who aren't as equipped to deal with the stress as older athletes.
And the goals of sports for young kids can differ dramatically from those of their parents and coaches, says youth fitness researcher Avery Faigenbaum, an associate professor of exercise science at the University of Massachusetts in Boston.
“Most children would rather play on a losing team than sit on the bench of a winning team,” he says.
When Faigenbaum asks kids who've quit why they're no longer interested in sports, their typical response: "It's not fun anymore." They wanted to have a good time, make friends and learn something new, he says. But make the game all about hard-core training and the final score, and many kids will sideline themselves.
“They’re getting turned off of sports at a young age -– and that’s a sad tale,” says Faigenbaum.
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There’s ample evidence that sports participation can have important benefits for kids, including improved physical health and emotional well-being. Hopefully, they’ll also learn life lessons in teamwork, discipline, leadership and time management. But kids can't profit from these benefits if they're quitting sports...