(What follows is an excerpt from an article by Jon Solomon of the Aspen Institute. Find the full article here.
There’s a time to sort the weak from the strong in sports. It’s not before kids grow into their bodies, minds and true interests.
Through age 12, at least, the Aspen Institute’s Project Play recommends that sports programs invest in every kid equally. That includes playing time – a valuable developmental tool that too many coaches assign based on player skill level and the score of the game. You will see this recommendation reflected in our Parent Checklists and companion videos.
The argument is simple for equal playing time: Research shows that what kids want out of a sports experience is both action and access to the action. Getting stuck at the end of the bench does not foster participation. And we all know greater participation is sorely needed in youth sports. Only 37 percent of kids ages 6 to 12 regularly played team sports in 2016, down from 45 percent in 2008, according to data from the Sports & Fitness Industry Association in the Aspen Institute’s State of Play 2017 report.
Kids who quit sports often do so because of lack of playing time, which can be a result of lack of confidence. Confidence is a byproduct of proper preparation and adults who believe in the players, according to IMG Academy Head of Leadership Development James Leath.
“From a small child to the world’s greatest athlete, those who are confident are confident because they have taken thousands of shots, tried and failed many times, then tried again and got it right,” Leath said.
Playing time shouldn’t be earned at younger ages. It should be paid forward to develop a future athlete.