Thursday, December 11, 2008

Survey Results: Youth and Organized Sports

In my work as an education writer, I come across a lot of research and surveys. One that crossed my desk in October was a survey commissioned by the Women’s Sports Foundation called Go Out and Play: Youth Sports in America. You can download the entire report here, but I warn you: it’s 192 pages.

What I thought was most interesting was the bit about why kids drop out of sports. Ice Girl is a gymnastics dropout. She left the sport after nine years because, well, she just didn’t love it $150 worth. When we stopped, she was just fine with not going.

According to the survey, most kids (38%) drop out of a sport because they’re not having fun anymore. That’s pretty legitimate, I think. The number two reason was for studying and grades (31%) and the number three reason was because of a health concern or injury (28%). Coaching conflicts were in the number four slot (20%), number five was outside interests like school clubs (19%), and number six was teammate conflicts (17%).

The troubling numbers come from families in trouble, something we’re going to see a lot of in 2009. Kids drop out because they can’t make it to practice (17%), don’t have the money (7%), or don’t have the equipment (7%).

Kids who drop out permanently from a sport report the lowest family satisfaction, which is a measure of family communication, flexibility, and cohesion. That means that these kids who are dropping out are the ones whose families are in the most trouble. These are the kids who most need sports to give them some sort of positive structure and drive.

The report had an upside, too. Two-thirds of the kids surveyed reported that playing a sport was either the most important (11%) or one of the most important (54%) things in their life.

Kids who are involved in sports report a higher satisfaction with their family and home life than students who do not play a sport. (The numbers are pretty complex and compare single-parent and dual-parent homes with one-, two-, and three- sport athletes.) Sports participation improves family communication and parents and children spend more time together.

So, even with the uncertain economy, Ice Girl will continue with her figure skating. She loves it, it promotes fitness, and it’s good for the family.

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