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Parents' Bad Behavior May Be to Blame for Kids Quitting Sports

The Short of It

Bad sideline behavior by parents and coaches is one of the top factors in why kids quit playing sports.

The Lowdown

When parents and coaches get out of control on the sidelines at kids' basketball games, baseball tournaments, and soccer matches, kids are the ones who pay the price. According to the National Alliance for Youth Sports, 70 percent of all kids ages 12 to 14 will quit all sports, and sideline behavior by adults is a top contributing factor.

Kids told US Youth Soccer that their top reasons for quitting sports included an overemphasis on winning by adults, coaches yelling, and negative feedback from parents. USA Football found parental pressure and pushing to be the top two reasons for young athletes to quit the game. In addition, a third of girls and boys told ESPN the top reason they quit was they stopped having fun.

To stop "sideline incivility" the National Alliance for Youth Sports offers an online parent behavior program, which some leagues require before children can play.

"I think education is the key, letting parents and coaches know," said John Engh, head of the alliance. "Through the registration process, if there are negative actions, there are going to be consequences."

While it's a shame to punish a kid for the actions of adults, it's the strongest incentive leagues have to get parents and coaches to behave. If they don't change bad behavior after being warned, they and their kids are not invited back.

The Upshot

Kids sports are supposed to be fun, teach them the importance of teamwork and good sportsmanship, and help them develop healthy exercise habits and athletic skills. Parents and coaches should remember these points both on and off the sidelines. Only a small percentage of kids grow up to be pro athletes, but they all grow up to be adults and need to have proper grown-up behavior modeled for them.

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