The Sports Doc

Why more kids today voluntarily retire from sports

By DR. CHRIS STANKOVICH
Monday April 1, 2013 10:12 AM
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Dr. Chris Stankovich

For most athletes sport retirement occurs because of deselection (they do not have the athletic talent needed in order to continue playing) or a career-ending injury, but did you know more young athletes today are voluntarily retiring from sports?  In these cases kids are not retiring from sport because of a lack of talent, mental toughness, or an injury; but instead because they are no longer interested in playing sports.  Why is this happening (especially to otherwise talented athletes), and what sport psychology factors are contributing to this change in attitude with today’s young athletes?

In previous generations nearly every athlete who participated in youth/interscholastic sports played until he or she couldn’t play anymore, and often retired from sports dejected and feeling unfulfilled as it related to playing at the “next” level.  While there are still countless numbers of young athletes who fall into this category, there are increasingly more kids who have simply had enough — often retiring from sports voluntarily because of one (or more) of the following factors:

•Cumulative burnout.  Today’s generation of young athletes often specialize in one sport and play that sport year-round (sometimes for many years on end).  In fact, it is not uncommon for kids as young as 5-6 years old to begin this kind of high intensity sports training, often burning them out by high school/early college.

•High intensity sports.   Travel and “Premier” leagues offer a higher level of sports competition, which can be both good and bad.  While kids may learn to master a sport at a sooner age, the high intensity schedule they are exposed to can lead to nagging injuries, sports burnout, and less fun (the #1 reason why kids compete in sports)

•The daunting prospect of college sports.  More young people today are learning that while college sports can be an incredibly fun and rewarding experience, it’s also a lot of work– even at the D-III level!  In fact, many would call college sports a full-time job in addition to the already challenging task of excelling in full-time college course-loads — all this leads to some young athletes deciding against continuing on in sports, even if they are lucky enough to have that opportunity.

Yes, a lot has changed in youth and interscholastic sports in recent years, including the increase in the number of kids who have simply had enough and welcome sport retirement. At my private practice where I regularly counsel student athletes, not a week goes by where I am not discussing the prospect of voluntary sport retirement with a youngster.  This can be an especially difficult situation to deal with for parents and coaches, as in most cases the athlete is still quite capable of playing, but seems to have lost interest (usually for one or more of the reasons I discussed above).

For more information on the signs of sport retirement and what you can do to help, check out Positive Transitions for Student Athletes.

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Dr. Chris Stankovich is a graduate of The Ohio State University and the Founder of Advanced Human Performance Systems, an athletic counseling and human performance enhancement center. 

For more information visit his website: www.drstankovich.com

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