British Columbia·Point of View

Why are kids turning their backs on sports?

Sports should keep kids happy and healthy. So why are so many kids not finding the fun in sports?

We need to make sure kids are having fun on the field, experts say

Kids need to focus on having fun — not going pro, experts say. (Romrodphoto/Shutterstock)

This story is part of Amy Bell's column Parental Guidance that airs on CBC Radio One's The Early Edition.

"My boy's gonna play in the big league 
My boy's gonna turn some heads 
My boy's gonna play in the big league 
My boy's gonna knock 'em dead..."

- Tom Cochrane, "Big League"

Many parents dream that with enough talent and practice, their little one could grow up to be the next "Great One" — but with more and more kids opting out of sports altogether, are we putting too much focus on success and not enough on having fun? 

A study conducted by charitable foundation True Sport shows 70 per cent of Canadian youth athletes are leaving team sports by the time they enter high school — and a lot of them are leaving sports for good. 

One of the top reasons?

They're not enjoying the sport anymore. And who can blame them? With a focus on early specialization — where a child plays one sport exclusively for more than nine months out of the year — it's easy to see where a lot of kids are burning out physically and emotionally.  

So, how do we level the playing field and make sure children enjoy sports not just when they're young — but keep active their wholes lives? 

Athletics have been a part of Emily Cordonier Carroll's life.

She grew up in Vancouver playing a variety of sports before focusing on volleyball for her post secondary career. Five years playing for UBC led to five years playing for Canada's national volleyball team. She now coaches and commentates on the game while raising a young family.  She says sports — and being active in general— should be an integral part of childhood, but that focusing too much time, money and energy on any one sport from an early age can backfire.

Emily Cordonier Carroll grew up playing a variety of sports before focusing on volleyball. (Emily Cordon)

Cordonier Carroll recommends parents step back from the sidelines and let their kids play and try new sports — without the pressure to go pro. 

"Let's make sure that they're happy, that they're healthy, that they're not hitting burnout, so that they hate it, because you're pushing them so much." 

You can't make someone a champion- Chris Lutes, golf coach

New Westminster golf coach Chris Lutes echoes the sentiment of letting kids relax and "play the field" when it comes to sports.

"Wayne Gretzky did not play hockey all year long," said Lutes. "You can't make someone a champion ... you have to make sure you don't screw them up." 

Stella Smith is a typical East Vancouver kid, but, at 12 years old, she's been in soccer nine years and also runs track and plays volleyball and basketball. 

Does she think she'll go pro?

Not necessarily, but she does know that being part of a team is important to her body and her mind and, most importantly, makes her happy.

"Being with your team and having those moments after a really good game ... just the feeling of being in a community. I love that." said Smith. 

A subsidized ride to a great school and maybe even a career in the majors is a great fantasy, and with skyrocketing tuitions and super-sized sports contracts, you can see the appeal. But the chances of your little one turning into the next big thing are slim to none.

With those odds, lets make sure we keep our focus on endorphins rather than endorsements.

About the Author

Amy Bell is a digital contributor to CBC. She can be heard weekdays on The Early Edition as the traffic and weather reporter and parenting columnist.


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