“Just play. Have fun. Enjoy the game.”- Michael Jordan
Have you heard about this new fancy thing called sports? It’s so cool.
Sports have been in existence for a long time. The first ever Olympic game was around 760 BC, and the only event was a footrace. ¹
Imagine a footrace in 760 BC.
Sports have come a long way since then. We have sports like basketball, soccer, cricket, softball, baseball, badminton, tennis, the list goes on. In total there are around 8,000 sports around the world. That my friend, is a lot, but here is the interesting part. According to a poll from the National Alliance of Youth Sports, around 70 percent of kids in the US stop playing sports after the age of 13. No matter if there are 8,000 different sports to choose from, they just stop playing. I am sure the US isn’t the only country facing this challenge
Cricket is a very popular sport in India and England, but do you know how cricket originated? It is not completely certain how cricket originated but it is believed to have been created around the 1500s by kids.2 Cricket was a kid’s game for a long time before it was taken up by adults in the 17th century. So, cricket was originally a kid’s game, but now, there are fewer kids playing cricket than ever before. 3
It’s weird if you think about it. A kid’s game at heart doesn’t have many kids playing it anymore. That is the same with so many sports around the world. Here’s the question it all comes down to. Why are kids not playing that many sports anymore?
Here are a few reasons why.
Overemphasis on winning.
“Winning isn’t everything, it is the only thing”
Ever heard of Vince Lombardi? That’s is his famous quote, but that isn’t really what he said. The real quote was “The will to win isn’t anything, it is the only thing”. There has been an increase in emphasis on winning. There have been many studies that have stated that 75% of kids would prefer to play for a losing team than sit on the bench of a winning team.4 Very often kids who do not perform at the level of their peers are put on the bench and they are not allowed to play. This ruins the experience for the kid. I was on a soccer team when I was younger, and many times, I wouldn’t be able to keep up with my teammates, so I was benched for most of the games. It ruined my experience for soccer, and I just wonder what it does to other people.
No Fun and Priorities
Isn’t the main idea of sports is to have fun. You are supposed to enjoy your time playing sports. People used to enjoy playing sports in their free time, but that has changed now. People are more focused on becoming professionals and earning money from sports. That is why most kids, after 14, drop sports.5 High school sports are geared towards meeting the needs for more competitive players and the expectations placed on them increase. This leaves average kids with fewer opportunities to play sports. Society no more supports kids who are playing for the fun of it.
Priorities also result in the lack of sport-minded kids. Parents feel the pressure to raise successful kids, so parents force kids to focus on areas where they can excel, leaving no time for sports as a fun game. Kids are forced to choose between school work and sports, and sports usually get kicked out of the discussion.
In the teenage years, kids begin using social media and various forms of entertainment. Many kids spend their time indoors watching something or playing some video game. In England, a poll from OnePoll surveyed 2,000 parents and children to assess the recreational habits of kids ages six to sixteen. They found that the average child spends just seven hours a week doing outdoor activities, and over twice that amount of time playing video games inside. Kids are spending more time indoors than going outside. According to the NHS (National Health Service), children age five to 18 should be getting at least one hour of physical activity per day. But an NHS health survey published in 2016 found that only 22 percent of children in England hit this target.
What it all comes down to
There are two groups of kids when it comes to sports. There are those who fit into the “stuck indoors” section I stated above and there are others who are interested in playing sports, but the system discourages that interest.
So, what do we do? How do we get kids outside in the first place, and then, change the system to be more accepting? There are no easy answers here.
I think we can start by addressing the influx of technology. I know it has been said many times that parents should limit the amount of time kids spend on devices, but it’s true. These technologies are part of the reasons that we are seeing
– More kids with obesity than ever before.
– More kids with social problems than ever before.
– More kids with depression than ever before.
– Fewer kids playing sports
So, therefore, I say that parents should limit screen time. Kids should socialize in real life and play more sports. Sports are healthy for the mind and the body.
Now, if we only address the technology issue, we won’t be getting anywhere. We need to address the system too. The system is broken.
“Our culture encourages specialization and achievement, which actively discourages kids from trying new things or just playing for fun.” – Washington Post
This needs to change. We need to rethink what matters in sports if we want any chance for this to improve.
Until we don’t change both of these things, we don’t stand a chance of solving this problem.
“Sports teaches you character, it teaches you to play by the rules, it teaches you to know what it feels like to win and lose-it teaches you about life.”- Billie Jean King