There is some disagreement regarding one of my favorite quotes.
Woody Allen either said “80 percent of life is just showing up’’ or he said “80 percent of success is just showing up.” Either way works for me.
As parents, we may not know that is why we sign our kids up to play sports when they are young, but that is what we are doing. We are making them “show up.”
I bring this topic to mind as I think about a recent article I read on a study done by the Sports and Fitness Industry Association, which is a trade group that promotes sports and fitness.
Examining statistics from several different sources, the SFIA determined that youth participation in basketball, football, baseball and soccer has decreased by 4 percent among boys and girls aged six through 17 between 2008 and 2012.
The Wall Street Journal, in reporting on the report, included the fact that the population of Americans in that age group also fell by 0.6 percent in that time period, which does not begin to explain the drop in participation.
But I can.
First, let me say that participation in sports is one of the best things my wife and I did with our four children. In our household, it was figure skating for our oldest daughter, soccer for the other three, along with baseball and basketball mixed in for the boys.
The SFIA reports that the sale of baseball bats fell 18 percent over the four years studied in terms of dollar amounts, while the sale of footballs dropped 5 percent. In my blog last week, I wrote about the decreased interest among America’s youth in baseball, and football is already suffering from parents who are keeping their children out of the sport due to concerns over concussions.
Here are some more numbers that matter;
Participation in football from 2008 to 2012 is down 4.9 percent for players between the ages of six and 14, according to the SFIA and the Physical Activity Council. Basketball participation dropped 6.3 percent in the same age group, and Little League Baseball participation dropped 6.8 percent. Soccer participation, which had been growing for many years, was up 7.4 percent in that four-year span, but youth league participation in leagues sponsored by the United States Soccer Federation was flat.
While I do not deny that there very well may be less children playing sports today than four or five years ago, those statistics are skewed somewhat (and also created) by the fact that by the time children reach double digits in age, they are often playing only one sport.
Specialization in youth sports participation is all the rage, especially for those kids who think they might accomplish something in one of the major sports. Training (it’s not called practice any more) becomes a year-round pursuit, leaving little time for participation in a second or third sport.
What happens statistically is that some kids who were counted twice or three times in participation stats previously aren’t there in sports No. 2 or 3 anymore.
Because of this specialization, there is also a slight stigma attached to kids who play in what is known as “house league’’ sports sponsored by local park district or community groups. They are less competitive and more fun but not as cool as the more competitive, more selective, more adult events.
It is up to the parents to get their kids signed up for multiple sports if the child is available to do so, and to get them to practices and games. For busy parents, it is easier to have a child signed up for one sport than for multiples, too, which could explain the drop in participation.
It’s a modern conundrum, but in this case, statistics don’t matter. For most parents, the national picture does not matter.
What matters is making sure your own child shows up. If they do, they are 80 percent of the way to success.