Traverse City Record-Eagle

Sports

May 16, 2014

Tom Lindley: Biking, rollerblading edge out baseball, football for some

Playing on teams and participating in sports remains a big draw for young people — boys and girls. That’s one constant.

Noticeably different is that when games are no longer fun, young people are just as likely to hang up their cleats and walk away. Some don’t even make it to their teenage years before quitting sports.

Those who investigate participation in youth sports agree on that much. Pinpointing a reason why young people fall in and out of love with sports is not as simple. There are probably many reasons.

The good news is more boys and girls are getting involved in athletic competition. Ronald B. Woods, author of the book “Social Issues in Sports,” said overall participation has reached an all-time high. What’s alarming, said Woods, is that drop-out levels are increasing, as well.

Popular high school teams — such as basketball, soccer, baseball and football — have seen declines in members in many places. By contrast, the number of female athletes has climbed dramatically since the passage of Title IX, which mandated more opportunities for girls. Dancing, cheerleading, swimming, volleyball and soccer are extremely popular among girls and young women.

Cultural and socioeconomic issues may explain why some young people are backing away from sports.

Increases in concussions and other sports injuries — which have been highly publicized — could also be a reason why some parents advise their children to quit sports where hard-hitting play and collisions are part of the action.

Soccer, a game equally popular among boys and girls, has enjoyed a tremendous a growth spurt in the past decade or more. But it also involves serious injuries, especially concussions and ligament damage.

Many young people say they leave sports because it’s no longer fun, they don’t want to put in the extra time to be highly competitive, or they’ve found more enjoyable things to do. Cost is also a consideration.

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