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YOUTH SPORTS ARE IN NEED OF REINVENTION

Team sports are a dress rehearsal for life. In fact, there is no better tool to teach kids the skills necessary to succeed in life than sports. Yet, something has gone terribly wrong. Youth sports have been hijacked by adults, and kids are literally losing out.

6 Big Challenges Facing Youth Sports

  1. Over 70% of kids drop out of youth sports by age 13 because it has become a negative experience or is no longer fun;1

  2. The focus has been shifted away from kids to bolstering the self-esteem of their parents and the win/loss record of their coaches;2

  3. A growing 3.5 million kids under the age of 15 are treated for sports-related injuries each year;3

  4. Single sport specialization at an early age has driven a staggering increase in physical and emotional burnout among kids;4

  5. Only 2% of all kids who play sports in high school will get any form of athletic scholarship to play in college, and only .1% will go on to play professionally.5 There is massive misalignment between the expectations of parents in the 99.9% who act as if their child is in the .1% and their young kids who view sports as what they should be… a fun game with friends.

  6. League culture and program formats are hyper-competitive, highly political, pressurized, disorganized, and inconvenient.

Sources

1. National Alliance for Youth Sports (NAYS); Amanda J. Visek, et al., Fun Integration Theory: Towards Sustaining Children and Adolescents Sport Participation, Journal of Physical Activity & Health, April 2014: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4201634/
2. National Alliance for Youth Sports (NAYS); Time Magazine: August 2017: http://time.com/4913687/how-kids-sports-became-15-billion-industry/?xid=homepage&pcd=hp-magmod
3. Mark Hyman, Until It Hurts (Boston: Beacon Press, 2009)
4. American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons: March 2018: https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/the-growing-trend-of-youth-sports-specialization-300608434.html
    N Jayanthi, et al., Sports Specialization in Young Athletes: evidence-based recommendations, Sports Health, May 2013: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3658407/"

5. NCAA Fact Sheet, March 2018: http://ncaa.org/sites/default/files/Recruiting%20Fact%20Sheet%20WEB.pdf

10 WAYS WE HAVE RE-ENGINEERED YOUTH SPORTS

It’s time to reclaim youth sports for kids. Real change in youth sports can only be driven by those who provide the programs. So, we have taken a leadership role in reinventing youth sports from the inside out by focusing on these 10 critical improvements to the way leagues operate:

1. FUN FIRST… we will make youth sports kid-centered and fun. It’s the #1 reason kids play sports.

2. INCLUSIVITY… we believe every child, regardless of their ability, gender, or race should have an equal opportunity to play youth sports. We will not exclude anyone by holding try-outs or drafts and we will aspire to give each child equal playing time.

3. SAFETY… we believe injuries should never be an acceptable consequence of playing youth sports. We will offer only non-contact sports and we will put the physical and emotional safety of our players ahead of all other considerations.

4. DEVELOPMENTAL INSTRUCTION… we believe sports programs should be tailored by age group, allowing kids to grow into their bodies, minds, and interests. We will design our programs by age group and arm our coaches with practice plans and instruction guides that have been designed for the physical and mental capabilities of each age group.

5. GOOD SPORTSMANSHIP… we believe sports must be about more than skills and score. We will develop player character by teaching and celebrating good sportsmanship at every practice and game.

6. CONVENIENCE… we believe youth sports participation should be easy and shouldn’t prevent the child or their family from having a balanced life. We will hold practices and games on the same day. We will not hold fundraisers, nor will we require parents to sell concessions on game day.

7. SPORT SAMPLING… we believe kids should be able to try multiple sports and various positions to discover their likes and to develop their physical literacy. We will offer multiple sports, encourage cross-sport participation, and rotate kids through different positions in each sport they choose.

8. HEALTHY COMPETITION… we believe learning how to win and lose with equal dignity is an important part of growing up. We will keep score where it is age appropriate but will never let the score become more important than having fun.

9. LEAGUE CULTURE… we believe that creating a positive culture on the field starts with creating and maintaining a positive culture on the sidelines. We will require all parents and coaches to sign a pledge acknowledging that youth sports are for kids, not adults, and that at this age, fun and building a love of the game are more important than the score.

10. CELEBRATION… we believe showing up as a teammate, being a good sport, making the most of one’s abilities, and winning all deserve recognition. We will recognize and celebrate all of them.

HOW DOES i9 SPORTS ® DIFFER FROM OTHER LEAGUES?

Our mission is to Help Kids Succeed in Life Through Sports®. When parents register their child under the age of 15 for a youth sports program, we think the program should fit their lifestyle, not the other way around. Parents should have the right to expect that their child will get quality instruction and be given an equal opportunity to develop their skills to the best of their ability… but in a format that doesn’t require the child and family to put everything else in their lives second.

Families seeking a highly competitive format with a win-at-all-cost culture will not feel at home in our leagues. Our format is unabashedly recreational as we reclaim youth sports for the millions of kids across the nation who just want to play sports as they should be… fun.

*i9 Sports was the first national youth sports organization to implement the following safety measures:
  • Parental Pledge to maintain positive sideline culture and to protect the emotional safety of players; implemented nationwide in 2005
  • “When in Doubt, Sit Out” Concussion Safety Protocol; implemented nationwide in 2011
  • Parent & coach concussion education and acknowledgement; implemented nationwide in 2011
  • Banned heading in soccer; implemented nationwide in 2011
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