Over 38 million kids engage in some form of sports each year, according to Safe Kids USA and almost 75 percent of American households with school-age children have at least one student athlete. Involvement in organized sports has many benefits, including physical fitness, discipline and teamwork. However, athletic involvement also involves some challenges which may cause some young athletes to stop playing individual and team sports. (Ref 1)
It’s Not Fun
Many organized sports involve repetition, rigorous practices, strict rules and guidelines, in addition to inflexible practice and game times and for some children, that's too much structure for something that should be fun. The impromptu pick-up games of basketball, or playing a friendly game of touch football in the park with their friends are more enjoyable versions of the sports they love and still provide exercise.
It’s Too Competitive
In addition to the many rules and regulations, many kids may find sports too competitive. While in theory, kids are supposed to be encouraged to have fun, just do their best, and demonstrate good sportsmanship, this philosophy is often undermined by competitive coaches and parents who express perhaps too deep a disappointment when the young athletes make mistakes or lose games. In addition, most-valuable-player designations, awards banquets and even tournaments and all-start teams, all help to reinforce the message that winning is everything.
Feelings of Inadequacy
According to the journal of Pediatrics, many youth coaches may be volunteers who have no training in child development and thus may be able to correctly gauge the level of a child’s motor skills in relation to the requirements of the particular sport. And as a result, some young athletes are attempting to play sports their bodies and minds are not prepared to handle, which causes frustration for all involved parties.
Each year, more than 3.5 million young athletes experience a sports injury severe enough to warrant medical attention, according to Safe Kids USA. In addition, approximately 66 percent of these injuries are serious enough to require attention in the emergency department. The most common injuries are ankle sprains, muscle strains, bone injuries and heat related sicknesses. However, at least 6 percent are for traumatic brain injuries. Some kids recover from these injuries and return to sports, but many don’t: They -- or their parents -- don't want to risk the chance of developing additional injuries, so they discontinue playing sports.
Some athletes may drop out of sports as a result of peer pressure. For example, Dr. Joan Steidenger, in a Youth Sports Psychology website article, says that young female athletes often give up sports as a result of pressure from their friends and boyfriends. Dr. Steidenger, a licensed psychologist who focuses on athletes, says the boyfriends of female athletes complain about the lack of time the couple spends together due to numerous practices and games. In addition, the girls feel that they are missing out on social activities, and as a result, some decide to give up their athletic commitments.