Why Are So Many Kids Quitting Sports By Age 11?

boy playing baseball Keith Johnson
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The cost might have a lot to do with when kids quit sports

A national survey from the Aspen Institute with the Utah State University Families in Sports Lab found that the average kid quits playing sports by age 11. For most kiddos, that’s only three years of athletic activity before “retirement.” Between the focus on competition (over fun) and the high participation cost, children are spending less time in organized athletics.

The Aspen Institute’s survey found that children report experiencing a high level of enjoyment from sports. But even though they’re reportedly having fun, kids also experience moderate levels of stress. According to the parent’s reports (in the survey), the most stress-inducing sports are hockey and lacrosse. Children had the least stress when participating in skiing/snowboarding, track, and field, soccer, and skateboarding.

Then there’s the money factor. When it comes down to finances, hockey is the most expensive—with parents spending an average of $2,583 per year. The least expensive sport was track and field, with a price tag of $191. Of all expenses, the parents reported travel as the biggest cost.

Related: The Only 2 Things to Say to Your Kid after a Game

Dr. Travis Dorsch, Utah State associate professor and founding director of the Families in Sport Lab, said in a press statement, “We need to figure out why they discontinue, not just that they do. For kids, two years in a sport may seem like forever, while we as adults think they should continue for much longer. We need to frame it through the interpretive lens of adolescence,” Dorsch added.

So what can you do if your child decides to retire from their sporting career early? First, respect their decision and don’t push something your kid doesn’t seem that interested in. You can also visit the Aspen Institute Project Play site here to find resources and other information on children, sports, and the power of play!

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