The number of kids playing sports is declining across the US. Surveys for Project Play 2020 show that only 36.9 percent of boys and girls between the ages of 6 and 12 take part in sports. The number is down 7.6 percent from 2008 when 44.5 percent of all US kids participated in at least one sports program.
Meanwhile, kids are less active than ever before. The number of kids in the 6-to-12 age group not taking part in sports is over 20 percent, while among adolescents in the 13-to-17 age group this number is 19 percent. And the biggest losers of this decline in participation are the big four team national sports: football, basketball, baseball, and soccer. Here’s a brief breakdown of how much and why.
While basketball remains the number one urban sport in America, it is yet to take over the landscape outside of cities. The lack of facilities in the rural parts of the nation makes it hard to come into contact with basketball. Additionally, the decline is also the result of a unique physical build required to participate in the sport, as US citizens are getting shorter. And since kids don’t start growing until they reach puberty, their height makes it difficult to take part in the sport competitively.
Baseball’s decline is mostly due to its inability to connect with kids, and participation is down by 1 to 2 percent each year. According to a report by the Washington Post, the sport is struggling because many parents didn’t play baseball as kids and didn’t introduce it to their children. It is essential for the game as its sluggishness, conservative rules and lack of action make it hard to adapt without a strong influence from a parent.
Historically speaking, soccer is only a recent addition to the plethora of team sports in the US, despite being the most popular sport in the world. The lack of facilities and specialized coaches makes it hard for kids to play the game.
However, after the US Women’s Soccer Team won the World Cup in 2015, there had been a spike of girls taking part in the sport. So, there might be a general turnaround for soccer participation in 2026, when the USA will host the World Cup alongside Canada and Mexico.
Football (Tackle) -5.4%
The NFL remains the favorite among sports fans across America. However, the number one reason for its decline among kids is the bad press the sport has received over the years regarding safety and players getting concussions from tackles during games. Parents don’t want to send their kids to hurt themselves or other players on the field.
How to Change This Trend?
All four sports will need to make changes to turn things around. Nevertheless, parents can take small steps and motivate their kids to play sports by highlighting the importance of a healthier lifestyle. And it could be as simple as receiving fundraising assistance from a professional league network that works with communities to improve facilities, create better leagues and promote youth sports. In doing so, parents will inspire kids to take up a game and lead better lives.
Tackling is the fundamental part and most important aspect of football. It’s also the most dangerous and both youth and pro football players risk serious injuries, like concussions, if they don’t perform a proper tackle. That’s why it’s vital that tackles are mastered at an early age, so it becomes a routine reaction in game situations. And to teach them, here are some tips and drills to help you.
Three-Step Tackling Drill
Players must learn to perform the fundamental movement of a proper tackle without thinking about it. The best way of teaching the safest technique is to break it down into a three-count tackle and teach it step-by-step:
- Step 1 – Break the midline of the opponent with the stronger foot, bring the arms back at the same time;
- Step 2 – Swing the arms behind the opponent and grab the back of the jersey. Players need to square the neck and ‘bite the ball’ by pulling the neck back and making contact with the face mask (NEVER tackle with the crown of the helmet!);
- Step 3 – Bring the hips forward and drive the opponent back or to the ground to complete the tackle.
Breaking down the mechanics of a proper tackle like this walks the players through the process. After enough drilling and practice, their bodies learn these motor actions and create muscle memory. In doing so, players gradually increase the speed of their movement ensuring they always make proper tackles unconsciously. Even during hectic game conditions.
Dummy Tackling Drills
Tackling a dummy is a simple way to teach players how to tackle correctly in youth football. It lets players master the three-step tackle before they start practicing with teammates.
Start the drill by positioning the players one yard in front of the dummy. After they take their defensive stance, on the whistle-blowing, each player should rush forward and tackle the dummy. Make sure the players tackle the dummy by wrapping their arms around it and hitting it with their chest plate.
As soon as they make contact, release the dummy, and allow the player to drive it forward or to the ground. Once one player successfully tackles the dummy move onto the next one until the entire squad has completed the drill.
Not grabbing the back of the offensive player is one of the main reasons players at all levels make incorrect tackles that lead to injury. A hug-and-hold drill helps create muscle memory among kids always to grab the ball player with both arms.
To start the drill, have two players take a defensive stance opposite of one another. On your mark, they should grab each other behind the back and start pushing each other. On the second mark, they should release the player and move on to the second part of the drill.
In the second part of the hug-and-hold, an offensive player carrying the ball should position himself in front of the defender. On your mark, the player with the ball should move forward and jump, while the defender should try and grab him by the back with both hands. Again, the emphasis is on using your hands, instead of the helmet during tackles.
Promote Safe Tackling
Even though kids might find these simple drills boring, it’s up to you to explain their significance. Coach players to have fun by creating a competition out of it who can do the best tackle to promote safe tackling. After all, it’s up to you to teach them how to stay safe on the field.
Kids are playing fewer sports in the US these days. A survey has shown that little over 36 percent of 6-to-12-year-old kids are participating in youth sports in contrast to 44.5 percent from 2008. The most significant loss is experienced by the big four national team sports: basketball, football, baseball, and soccer.
The decline is mostly due to social factors. On the one hand, kids from low-income families are the ones hardest hit, because of the increasing costs associated with youth sports. High facility and coaching fees, expensive equipment, and the higher cost of travel are all factors that make these youth sports less inclusive.
On the other hand, it’s also down to the influence of these sports. According to another survey, fathers remain the most significant sports role model that makes children turn to sports. And if parents haven’t played or watched the sport, it’s highly unlikely their kids will want to join a program.
However, the overall decline hasn’t affected some sports, and there are some clear winners in recent years. The three most notable youth sports which are rising are ice hockey, lacrosse, and gymnastics. Let’s take a look at what made them boom in the last couple of years.
Ice Hockey has seen an increase of 64 percent in youth participation in recent years. While it remains a contact sport with a high rate of injuries, ice hockey is becoming less violent as fights are fewer. It has motivated many parents to sign up their kids to participate in the sport.
Besides the usual bastions of the sport in the North of the US and Canada, the NHL is planning to relocate teams into other parts of the US. The prospect of having a team in your home city has driven franchises to promote the sport to kids (and their parents) to increase the fan base in those cities.
Participation in gymnastics at youth level has risen 15% in recent years. The sport remains most popular among girls, especially after the immense success of the US gymnastics team at the 2016 Summer Olympics. In particular, high coverage of Simone Biles’ efforts and her one bronze and three gold medals has motivated kids across America to take part.
Another contribution to its popularity is the winning bid by Los Angeles to host the 2028 Olympic Games. As the host nation, the US Olympic Committee has to produce quality participants in all sports, including gymnastics. And with ten years to go, it’s the perfect time to start training.
The oldest active sport on the North American continent is up 158 percent. Currently, it’s the fastest growing sport in the United States. Because lacrosse is the least violent contact sport, parents choose it for their children instead of football.
Moreover, the sport is being televised more at the college and professional level. It has increased the reach of lacrosse, and children who didn’t have the opportunity to come into contact with the sport are now drawn to participate. The fast pace of the game, the unusual style of play and inclusiveness of both genders makes it attractive to watch, and kids want to be part of that game.
Playing Any Sport Is Important
Despite the popularity of these sports, parents should motivate their kids as much as possible to take part in games. With the help of a professional league network that supports sport in communities, kids are more likely to take up a sport they like, so that they can enjoy a happier and healthier childhood.
Coaches are valuable members of any sports organization. How well they prepare the team tactically, physically and mentally determines the success of the entire team. But good youth coaches also are excellent teachers, educating kids about the importance of having fun over winning, teamwork and fair play.
However, in most cases, youth coaches are volunteers with primary experience in sports who only want to do right by their community and their kids. And after their child stops playing, it’s likely they leave the team to focus on other aspects of their life.
Because a good youth coach is hard to find, it is vital for both the parents and the youth sports organization to pull together and do as much as possible to persuade the coach to stay on the team. So, it’s vital to know how to retain youth coaches after their child stops playing to continue nurturing a fun and enjoyable experience for all the kids on the team.
Use the Two Main Motives for All Youth Coaches
Youth coaches are formal volunteers. They have a personal commitment to the sports organization (their child and their word) and gain a sense of accomplishment and gratification from doing the work (teaching kids and winning games.)
These two motives are the main driving force of your coach. It’s why they chose to lead the team in the first place. After their child outgrows the team, it’s important to highlight their connection with other kids.
Make sure not to guilt the coach into staying, but instead suggest he takes on the team until the next generation of players signs up for the team. It’s far more likely the coach will stay if he feels a sense of obligation to see the whole project through.
Listen to the Coach
Listening to the coach allows you to hear him out and discover his pain points. Sure his child has left the team, but that’s not the only reason why he stayed on as coach. There must be something he wants to achieve or a personal ambition he can realize through the team. Your job is to find out what it is.
Ask questions related to his ambitions and what the team needs. When you do find out what that might be, it will be easier to make constructive suggestions both to the coach and the organization.
Offer to Do Something for the Coach
As mentioned, a sense of gratification is one of the motives that drive youth coaches. Reward the coach’s efforts by offering to support his professional development. Financing a coaching course or getting them to take a first aid certification might seem insignificant, but it demonstrates how much you care.
A coach might also feel empowered by the offer, and share the passion you have for your children. And if he accepts, he’s here to stay.
Offer to Do Something for the Team
Finally, offer to improve and reward the team. Gather the community around a major project, like the sports facility renovation or raising money to take part in a stronger league or tournament. If your offer boosts expectations, it can motivate the coach to stay on and see the new project through.
It also shows the coach that you share his ambitions, while the competitiveness of your offer might be tempting, seeing how he’s a former athlete. The kids will also appreciate the gesture and work harder to make you and the coach proud.
Equal playing time is a major topic for discussion when talking about youth sports. While some coaches and parents, view it as a way to win games and develop only the most promising players, others don’t agree. They argue that playing sports at the youth level should be focused on the love of the game, not on achievement.
However, even with that attitude, there are definite benefits of equal playing time that make it a positive model of coaching young athletes.
It Creates a Balanced Team
Equal playing time in youth sports, especially up to the age of 12, is an integral part of providing every player with match practice. What they learn during practice and drilling has to be tried out in a real game environment so that each player can successfully adopt it.
It’s also more important for a coach training a team at this level to have the same roster and work with players to develop skills individually. Kids grow at different rates. A star-player with great talent and potential in one season might decline as other players start catching up. But a balanced team can rely on teamwork to overcome specific skill deficits.
It Reduces Fatigue, Burnout, and Injuries
When coaches only use one starting lineup, they run the risk of increasing fatigue and burnout for those players. Potentially, this can lead to injuries for the players with the highest game time, while the benched players might start leaving the team.
With equal playing time in youth sports, kids equally participate in every game. Frequent substitution and rotation of the lineups increases game time, experience level and reduces the risk of injury. It also gives the coach far greater tactical maneuverability when preparing for different games. It is especially useful during the height of the season when kids play both tournaments and regular league matches.
It Develops Healthy Friendships
Friendship is another positive side of the fair play. With everyone contributing to the team, it raises spirits and work rate and lowers jealousy and competitiveness among players. It can also help to create in-game partnerships, which benefit the game of the team.
For example, a partnership between a quarterback and offensive tackle means higher passing or running and more yards gained. In baseball, an interchangeable pair of pitchers and catchers can help the team surprise opposing teams with unconventional plays. While in basketball and soccer, this translates into more assists and shots per game.
What’s more, friendships on the field are quality relationships off the field as well. It helps each child find group acceptance, and helps them develop healthier social behavior.
It Promotes Fun Over Winning
Finally, equal playing time means everyone on the team is playing for fun and not for winning. It is an essential aspect of sports, as it improves the physical, psychological, emotional and social well-being of each player.
The Final Answer
So, should there be equal playing time in youth sports? Absolutely. It means that players receive the same support from their teammates, as the team does from the whole community. This type of sportsmanship among players, parents, and coaches is one of the main reasons League Network will continue to do everything it can to promote and help small youth sports organizations.
A pro athlete isn’t born overnight. It takes a lot of hard work, sacrifice, and perseverance to become successful. It also requires a considerable amount of support from their family, friends, coaches, and their entire community.
Athletes are aware of this. That’s why each year professionals give something back to the most vulnerable social groups to improve the global community. And when it comes to helping others, these five pro athletes are the most charitable in the world.
- Cristiano Ronaldo – CR7
At the age of 33, CR7 one again made headlines this summer by making the switch from Real Madrid to Juventus after nine years in Spain. But besides being one of the greatest players in soccer history, he is also an active philanthropist.
Over the course of his career, Ronaldo has donated tens of millions of dollars to various local, health, welfare and environmental charities across the world. Among the most significant contributions was the $5 million he donated to Nepal after the 2015 earthquake; over $1.7 million to fund schools in Gaza, and the $680,000 to various NGOs in one day.
- Serena Williams
Serena Williams is one of the best female tennis players of all time, and one of the most charitable athletes. Among her countless Grand Slam and WTA trophies and titles, she has also received many awards for her charity work. Her accolades include Celebrity Role Model Award by the Avon Foundation for work in fighting breast cancer.
Through the work of the Serena Williams Foundation, she has funded the construction of a Secondary School in Matooni, Kenya; raised funds for the victims of the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, and has been a UN Goodwill Ambassador since 2011.
- LeBron James
The best basketball player in the world also has a global reputation for his charity work. After leaving Cleveland for Miami in 2010, James raised over $3 million to fund boys and girls basketball clubs across the US. However, one of his most significant achievements comes from the LeBron James Family Foundation which he established. The foundation improves the lives of children through education. In 2015, the charity spent $41 million funding students from Akron to attend college for free.
- John Cena
Although he might seem like a tough guy, the WWE wrestler is one of the most charitable athletes on the planet. Until now, John Cena has granted over 500 wishes to children with life-threatening illnesses for the Make-A-Wish Foundation. He has also been a significant voice when it comes to raising awareness for cancer and anti-bullying campaigns, most notably during his WrestleMania XXVIII when he wore “Rise Above Cancer” and “Rise Above Hate” T-shirts.
- J. J. Watt
One of the most charitable players in the NFL, J.J. Watt has raised millions in funds that have helped various individuals and organizations across America. His most significant contribution came in 2005 when he helped to raise $37 million to help Houston recover in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey.
Additionally, he has helped raise funds for schools across the continental United States, and after the Santa Fe High School shooting, he even offered to pay for the funerals of the victims.
Support Youth Sports
League Network is an organization dedicated to improve leagues and encourage participation in youth sports across America. We make it simple to set up fundraising campaigns for sports organizations which have helped over 41,000 young athletes take part in their favorite game. If you want to join us, contact us and let’s make a difference in your community.