Are Youth Sports Too Competitive?

Millions of children in the US participate in youth sports each year. As a parent eager to enroll your child in a local program, you may picture them getting fresh air and exercise, making new friends, and falling in love with a fun sport. But before you enroll your child, be aware that some programs are ultra-competitive and intense, a fact that leads over 70% of kids to drop out of youth sports by age 13.

Fortunately, not all programs are like this. Learn what happens when youth sports become too competitive and how to find a program that prioritizes young athletes’ safety, happiness, and well-being above all else.

What are the Pitfalls of Over-Competitive Youth Sports?

When parents and coaches want their teams to win more than the athletes do, you know there’s a problem. Consider the pitfalls of joining a youth sports league that fosters a win-at-all-costs attitude.

Increased Risk of Injury for Young Athletes

About 3.5 million kids under age 15 are treated for sports-related injuries each year. Nearly half of these injuries result from simple overuse, a sign that kids are being pushed beyond their physical limits to win no matter what it takes. Single-sport specialization at an early age is another major cause of overuse injuries. In fact, such athletes are up to 90% more likely to be injured than their more casual, multi-sport peers.

Kids Having Heightened Pressure to Succeed

There’s nothing wrong with wanting your kids to succeed, but putting too much pressure on them can be dangerous. Attend an average youth club sporting event, and you’re bound to hear parents yelling angrily from the sidelines, which takes the fun out of the game for everyone.

Coaches can also put undue pressure on athletes if they focus primarily on winning. If your child’s coach forgets that youth sports are for having fun, it may be time to find a new team.

Inflated Perceptions of Potential for Future Scholarships or Professional Play

Some parents encourage their kids to play youth sports in hopes of scoring a full-ride scholarship to a prestigious university. But the fact is only 2% of high school athletes get athletic scholarships to play in college, and most of these students must still pay some tuition. Then, only a small percentage of collegiate athletes go on to play professionally.

Despite these statistics, some parents and coaches fill young athletes’ heads with visions of a highly improbable future when they should be motivating them to work hard and focus on self-improvement. This inflated perception of their potential can make some athletes become overconfident. The pressure to achieve these goals at a young age can also affect their mental health, they can develop anxiety or depression if they put too much pressure on themselves to achieve these goals. 

Dwindling Interest for Young Athletes in their Sport 

Does your child complain about going to practice? Have they ever faked an injury to get out of playing? These behaviors are signs that your child is losing interest. Have an open and honest talk about why.

Your child may feel overwhelmed by the high expectations of playing in an overly competitive league. They might also want to try a different sport because they feel physically and emotionally burned out. If your child is interested in playing in a more casual, multi-sport setting, encourage them to try a different program that will better suit their needs.  

How to Find a Youth Sports Program with a Healthy Level of Competition

Hyper-competitive club teams may not be a good fit for your child. At the same time, you may not want to join a league full of participation trophies. The trick is to find a program with a healthy balance of competition and sportsmanship.

At i9 Sports®®, our mission is to Help Kids Succeed in Life through Sports®. This includes incorporating a healthy level of competition while celebrating good sportsmanship at every game. After all, we believe sports are about more than who has the most skill or who scores the most points. We still keep score, but our main goal is to teach kids the value of sportsmanship, building character, and learning to work as a team. 

Our youth sports leagues maintain an inviting, low-pressure environment, focusing on fun and age-appropriate instruction. Our programs do not exclude anyone with tryouts or drafts, and our coaches aspire to give each child appropriate instruction and playing time. 

Sign Up Your Child for Youth Sports

If your ultimate goal is to foster enjoyment, health, and personal growth for your child, i9 Sports® has a youth sports league for you! Our national franchise offers numerous programs and encourages “sport sampling” so kids can try various sports and positions to discover what they like best. Rest assured that we stick to once-a-week programs, so your child’s hobby will never take over your family life.

Ready to experience The Way Youth Sports Should Be® for yourself? Browse our programs or contact an i9 Sports® office near you to learn how to enroll your child.

Coach pointing and telling young girl soccer player where to go on the field.