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A Shot at the Big Time Is a Long Shot

Participation in youth sports is growing all across America. Recent figures from the National Council of Youth Sports show that more than 41 million children participate in organized sports leagues.

Everywhere in America, more and more kids are enjoying the benefits of participation – exercise, opportunities to make new friends and developing both physical skills like coordination and social skills like sportsmanship and conflict resolution.

But youth sports can have their downside, especially when parents start pressuring their kids or setting goals that are unrealistic.

Most parents, at one time or another, have entertained some unrealistic expectations for their kids. Even if you think a career as a professional athlete is out of reach for your child, you still might expect him to be a high school sports star and earn a college scholarship. One look at the numbers, however, suggest otherwise. 

The NCAA reports the following:

  • 7 million boys and girls play sports in high school. Fewer than 200,000 will receive a partial or full college scholarship.
  • Only 1 in 1,250 high school football players will play in the NFL.
  • Only 1 in 5,000 high school girls will play basketball in the WNBA.
  • Only 1 in 3,300 high school boys will play basketball in the NBA.

What’s even more surprising is the fact that 70 percent of children who play organized sports quit playing before they enter high school. It takes a “perfect storm” of talent, hard work and luck for a youngster to become a collegiate or professional athlete.

Why Children Play Sports
As a parent, your emphasis shouldn’t be on playing time, perfection or whether or not your child will earn an athletic scholarship. Instead, focus on what’s more immediate and important to your child – having fun, making friends, getting fit and learning new skills. Those are the very reasons youth give for wanting to play team sports. Other reasons include:

  • Wanting to participate as a member of a team
  • Wanting to do something they can excel at
  • Wanting to be with friends and make new ones

By setting realistic expectations for your young athlete, your whole family will have a much more enjoyable sports experience.

Learn more about this topic in Competing with Character: Let's Put Sportsmanship and Fun Back Into Youth Sports by Kevin Kush, M.A., with Michael Sterba, M.H.D.

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