An open letter to all parents... - by Allistair McCaw
Updated: Jul 6
THE DROP OUT ZONE: 70% of kids quit their sport before the age of 13. Here’s the main reasons why:
The reality is, 70% of all kids quit organised sports by the age of 13, and the number one reason? They say that it's no longer fun anymore.
Personally, having been involved in the sports world for almost 30 years, as an athlete and now as a coach, I have seen this first hand.
The window of drop out is usually after a kid who’s been playing the sport since around 6 or 8 years of age, feels at around 14 or 15 they don’t enjoy it as much. The have lost their ‘WHY’. The reason they first started it, and that was because it was just ‘fun'.
Holding your kid back from too much training and competition in a single sport, but still have them active in a few other sports can increase the chances they will play longer and love it more.
Here’s a few reasons why kids drop out early:
1. Over zealous parents -
Parents (and coaches) are fueled by their talented kid to spend all their time and money on pursuing the child's sports career. They feel the more, the better, when in fact it’s that continual push that can at most times send their kid over the edge.
They also seem to panic when other kids the same age as theirs might be winning or doing better, so they make changes in coaches or clubs and even feel the need to add on more competitions.
Remember that every kid develops at a different rate. Remember that kid in 5th grade that was a head taller than everyone else?
2. Too much competition at a young age -
Burn out and over playing can occur at a very early age. Kid’s that compete too much and too early are in the 70% category of quitting a sport sooner than later.
Too much competition at a young age also means that they are not busy doing the things they should be doing more of, like athletic skills and technical development.
Remember that competition is pressure. Competition is good for the child, it teaches them how to handle pressure situations, but not too much as this can take their love and enjoyment away from the sport. Focus must be on development.
3. It’s not fun anymore -
The kid doesn’t enjoy playing anymore due to the loss of fun. They are always practicing or playing matches. Also, the pressure and more attention to simply ‘winning’ applied by coach an/or parent. The fun is simply drained out of it because of 'win at all cost' coaches and over-pressuring parents.
Kids also start to see their friends having more fun having more balance in their lives, playing other sports and going to friends houses, fun activities etc..
Always remember what the number 1 reason was why kids started to play a particular sport - because it’s FUN.
4. Too high expectations -
This is a big one! When a kid is extremely talented at a young age or showing great potential, a lot of parents will be constantly told how brilliant or great their kid is.
This is the mistake of society. Kids are put on pedestals way before they have earned it or should have.
Ridiculous as it may sound, but here in the United States, I have heard parents of kids under the age of 12 years talking to University and college coaches about getting their kid to go there!
A massive weight of expectation is placed on these kids shoulders the moment they win a tiny insignificant tournament or competition!
And while I’m on that subject, parents pulling their kids out of school before 14, what are you thinking?
It's understandable that Sometimes arrangements in time scheduling need to be made, but pulling a kid from the classroom permanently at these ages is more harm than good.
The most important thing as a parent or coach, is to always make sure the kid is having FUN.
I would recommend that both the parent and coach, provide the balance to this equation.
Parents, your role is simple: Just be there to lend unconditional love and support. Also, remember to let the coach, coach.
Have some integrity and patience, stop the coach hopping and thinking the grass is always greener when another kid does well.
Most of all - Let you kid decide if they still find it fun. It should be their choice.
Remember: Develop the Athlete before the player. But most important of all, help develop their enjoyment for the game as well as life skills.
Stay the course. Keep it fun. Enjoy 'their' journey.
- Allistair McCaw