Making Youth Sports Fun Again--How One Program Succeeds

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Two kids wearing read i9 Sports uniforms each holding a "thumbs up."

Youth sports are meant to be a positive experience for both parents and their kids. But for many kids, the joy of playing sports is fading fast and many young athletes are quitting. In fact, according to a poll from the National Alliance for Youth Sports, 70% of young athletes stop playing organized sports by age 13—and never play again.

”It’s become an epidemic where parents and coaches have taken over and made it all about them,” said Rachael DuPont, owner of i9 Sports. “It’s very alarming. Now about 30% of girls ages 6-12 play sports and about 40% of boys from that same age group play sports, according to research by Aspen Institute,” DuPont said.

Here are the top reasons why kids quit sports:

  • Coaches and parents set unrealistic expectations.
  • The child believes they don’t measure up to other athletes.
  • The game gets too competitive.
  • Parents push the child to specialize in only one sport.
  • Teammates, competitors, or coaches tease, bully, or embarrass the child.
  • The child is frustrated by the lack of playing time.
  • The child has competing interests and pressures on their time.

Most of these reasons boil down to one thing—playing sports just isn’t fun anymore.

”At i9 Sports we keep the fun in sports! From practicing drills and skills in your practice and then moving what you’ve learned into a gametime situation. Keeping it fun and exciting is the number one thing kids want in their youth sports program,” DuPont said.

i9 Sports is making a difference and reclaiming youth sports for kids. Real change in youth sports can only be driven by those who provide the programs. So, at i9 Sports the programs have been reinvented from the inside out by focusing on critical improvements to the way national youth sports leagues operate:

FUN FIRST… we make youth sports kid-centered and fun. It’s the #1 reason kids play sports. And it’s the cornerstone of the i9 Sports difference.

INCLUSIVITY… we believe every child, regardless of their ability, gender, or race should have an equal opportunity to play youth sports. We do not exclude anyone by holding try-outs or drafts and we aspire to give each child equal playing time.

SAFETY… we believe injuries should never be an acceptable consequence of playing youth sports. We offer only non-contact sports and we put the physical and emotional safety of our players ahead of all other considerations.

DEVELOPMENTAL INSTRUCTION… we believe sports programs should be tailored by age group, allowing kids to grow into their bodies, minds, and interests. We design our programs by age group and support our coaches with practice plans and instruction guides that have been designed for the physical and mental capabilities of each age group.

GOOD SPORTSMANSHIP… we believe sports must be about more than skills and score. We develop player character by teaching and celebrating good sportsmanship at every practice and game.

CONVENIENCE… we believe youth sports participation should be easy and shouldn’t prevent the child or their family from having a balanced life. We hold practices and games on the same day. We do not hold mandatory fundraisers, nor do we require parents to sell concessions on game day.

SPORT SAMPLING… we believe kids should be able to try multiple sports and various positions to discover their likes and to develop their physical literacy. We offer multiple sports, encourage cross-sport participation, and rotate kids through different positions in each sport they choose in each of our national youth sports leagues.

HEALTHY COMPETITION… we believe learning how to win and lose with equal dignity is an important part of growing up. We keep score where it is age appropriate, but we never let the score become more important than having fun.

i9 Sports logo

LEAGUE CULTURE… we believe that creating a positive culture on the field starts with creating and maintaining a positive culture on the sidelines. We require all parents and coaches to sign a pledge acknowledging that youth sports are for kids, not adults, and that at this age, fun and building a love of the game are more important than the score.

CELEBRATION… we believe showing up as a teammate, being a good sport, making the most of one’s abilities, and winning all deserve recognition. We recognize and celebrate all of them.

Learn more or register at i9Sports.com.