Ten things wrong with youth sports

Published on March 3rd, 2020

by Craig Leweck, Scuttlebutt Sailing News
I once heard about a meeting between a yacht club’s board of directors and US Sailing leadership in which the question was asked, “How do we determine if our junior program is succeeding?” While piles of trophies would seem to be an indicator of success, I contend there is only one answer to the question: retention.

If the program has done a good job of introducing the sport, kids will keep doing it. Now, there will always be attrition, but if the program has de-emphasized competition, and exposed young people to all the choices in sailing (and not just square boats), the program can actively pursue this metric of success.

Retention becomes even a bigger deal when you consider a club’s junior program is an attribute of the club’s business plan. To quote one club’s youth mission statement, the program is to “instill in them a love for the sport of sailing that will serve as a foundation for the future of the Club.”

Anyway, sailing is not unique as all youth sports are struggling with attrition. Little League® Baseball and Softball shared a report with 10 things that were wrong in their sport, and it is a list that could just as easily apply to youth sailing:

Problem 1: Specializing to get a head start.
Solution 1: Be a Generalist.

Problem 2: Training children like they are adults.
Solution 2: Train them like children.

Problem 3: Too many games; not enough practice.
Solution 3: Find a better practice to game ratio.

Problem 4: Putting an emphasis on tournament play and All-Star teams, rather than the Little League experience as a whole.
Solution 4: Find additional ways to create the excitement of tournament all throughout the year.

Problem 5: Focusing on results too early.
Solution 5: Be outcome aware, but purpose and process driven.

Problem 6: Forcing children to play the adult version of the game too early.
Solution 6: Be patient with modified rules and field sizes.

Problem 7: Parents living vicariously through their children.
Solution 7: Release them to the game.

Problem 8: The ride home after the game.
Solution 8: Give them the space and time needed to digest the game, and then they will be ready to learn.

Problem 9: Untrained coaches.
Solution 9: Train all coaches.

Problem 10: Lack of respect for the umpires.
Solution 10: Know your role.

To read the complete report, click here.

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