Simply put, for 99% of the children, youth sports are not a vehicle for or a means to an end. It is not about status, glory, scholarships, or playing professional sports.  According to the National Alliance of Sports,   70% of our children quit playing youth sports by the time they are 13 who were still playing at the age of 10.  To get the fun back into youth sports, we need to balance the importance of youth sports and the time we spend on them, the effort we put into them, in proportion to the rest of our lives. This is “balanced excellence.” The pursuit of balanced excellence is the ability and desire to pursue excellence in all areas of our lives in an even manner.
            Sometimes, children develop other interests and outgrow their desire to play a particular sport.  It doesn’t have to be burn out that causes them to quite.  It could be not willing to commit the time, effort and stress it takes to play structured youth sports.  Dating, money, and socializing, all play a part in the decision-making process of athletes to pursue other interests.  Let them make an individual choice based on their individual interests, needs, not on parents and coaches wants and desires.  Kids should be playing sports for the right and healthy reasons, in a safe and healthy atmosphere.
            Parents, coaches, players, and organizations can get wrapped up in and wildly enthusiastic about Division I college athletics and professional sports.  But, there is little correlation to our children’s involvement in youth sports.  We need to keep this in perspective.  We need to insure that we are focusing our attention and efforts on all areas of our life and the lives of our children.  The number one priority in youth sports is to have fun!
            If you are having fun, you are having fun; you can never put enough value on play. If children are not having fun, they should stop playing on that team. They don’t have quit entirely, but if the sport isn’t fun, at least 75% of the time, you should not participate on that team. Organized and structured youth sports organizations are not the end all answer to development. They sometimes can be harmful.
 Find a team that shares similar philosophy and play for fun.  Text some friends; go to a field, court, or rink and have fun!  Organize your own pick-up games.  Play is not a job. We ought not to make it one.
            There are common expressions used by parents and players that are heard time and time again: “I will fall behind if I don’t play year-round…The coach says I have to go to this camp…I have to play for this club team; they are the best…..She can play soccer with a brace. It will be all right.” These statements heard on many teams over many seasons are an indication of unhealthy problems.
            Playing youth sports is still worth playing, even if it does not include playing in high school.  Watch the kids sit on the bench during a high school game. Are they having fun? Are their parents getting their money’s worth out of their children’s participation in “pay for play” sports?  There are pick-up games, recreation leagues, intramurals, and adult leagues on which kids can play, now and through their adult years. The fun, the camaraderie can be found in any and all these alternatives to “pay for play” youth sports.
            The underlying current of youth sports participation has changed radically over the years.  Do we understand the significance in that change, as well as the long-term ramifications, both mentally and physically?  We tend to be consumed as a society to be on top, to be number one, to win no matter the cost.  We are losing the idea that youth sports are supposed to be a way for our kids to learn life lessons, skills that will stay with them when they are adults. Youth sports, too, are a means for our kids to get much needed exercise, a means to socialize, a means for having fun.  Playing youth sports is part of the continuum, the journey of life. Youth sports should not be just about winning. Winning will take care of itself if the other parts are in place and are encouraged continually.