A recent study points to a very disturbing trend. Seven out of 10 players quit organized sports by the age of 13. We have spent a great deal of time and energy discussing all the reasons why being involved in sports in general and, the great game of fastpitch softball in particular, so the idea that so many kids are quitting at a young age is alarming and sad.
Short-term goals of winning and the pressure associated with the idea of winning at all costs is a big part of the problem. When winning is emphasized over the long-term development of skills and a love for the game we are setting our players up for an early end to their softball careers.
When winning is the top priority we are killing many of the things that make sports fun for kids:
- It instills fear in the players who are so worried about messing up that they don’t enjoy big chunks of the time that they spend at the field.
- It kills a player’s willingness to experiment and take risk because they know that trying new things are risky.
- It leads to decreased performance because the players are so tense and filled with anxiety that they can not perform at their highest levels.
- It increases the fear of failure, which creates a playing-not-to lose mentality rather that a play-to-win attitude.-
- It creates an unhealthy dynamic between players and their parents and coaches who become only interested in the player’s ability to be a “winner” rather than their effort or attitude.
All these things are driving players away from the game at an alarming level. I see young players all the time who I doubt will stay with the game long-term because the pressure of winning and performing is robbing them of the fun of playing the game.
Make no mistake about it, when the game isn’t fun, kids will quit.