Youth Sports Dropouts

October 16, 2012

Depending on the study, we’re told that 80 to 90 percent of all youngsters who ever participate in organized youth sports have stopped doing so by the age of 13.  Before they reach 9th grade.

High school sports never gets a chance with eight or nine of every 10.

There are many reasons for this, and of course not all of them are bad.  Some kids find something better to do, or at least more fitting for them.  But a lot of them have barely begun to mature and cannot possibly know what they might like to do or be good at doing with some coaching and encouragement.

Research tells us that much of the reason for the early dropouts has to do with an unhappy or unfulfilling or “unfun” youth sports experience.  Some of that has to do with too much too early, or at least too much structure too soon; too much practice, competition and travel too soon; and too much screaming too soon.

That environment drives some youth from team sports in favor of individual sports.  Some drop traditional sports in favor of alternative sports.  Some leave sports altogether.

Cheering for Sportsmanship

July 31, 2018

(This blog first appeared on on January 8, 2013.)

I try to start each new school year at the Michigan Interscholastic Press Association summer camp at Michigan State University. I talk briefly about who the MHSAA is and what it does; and then two or three dozen high school newspaper editors and writers ask me questions; and in doing so, they give me clues to what’s going on in our schools and what’s important to our students.

Several years ago, when I opened the session to questions, one young man asked: “Mr. Roberts, what’s your job?” I paused, and then said, “I guess I’m the head cheerleader for high school sports in Michigan.”

So then this precocious student asked: “Okay, what do you cheer for?”  With a briefer pause, this is some of what I said:

  • I cheer for sportsmanship that’s not merely good, but great.

  • I cheer for sportsmanship, not gamesmanship.

  • I cheer for playing by the rules, both the letter and the spirit.

  • I cheer for maximum effort to try to win each and every contest.

  • I don’t cheer for winning at any cost; I do cheer for learning at every opportunity.

  • I cheer for losing with grace and for winning with even greater grace, with humility and modesty.

  • I cheer for the lessons of victory and the even greater lessons of defeat.