The number of kids playing sports keeps decreasing: just 36.9% of children aged six to 12 played team sports on a regular basis back in 2016, down from 38.6 in 2015, and 44.5 in 2008, according to data released from Aspen Institute’s Sports & Society Program – and the figures aren’t improving.

However, there are a number of ways that parents can cultivate a sports-positive environment for their child, and even encourage them to carry on playing professionally. From rugby to football and everything in between, here are the prime reasons for a lack of sports participation among children, and what can be done to help.

The reasons behind low participation

Before we can begin to fix the issue, it’s important to understand why participation is lacking when it comes to children playing sports. One big issue is the amount of time and money that sports take over the years, both for the parents and the kids. Between practices and games, and paying for the uniform and equipment, a significant amount of resources generally have to be invested in by everyone involved. Other notable reasons that may deter participation in sports are player burnout, and even concern over injury.

In countries such as South Korea, many fear that the value placed on excelling academically may overshadow excelling in sports, leaving children more concerned and busy with their studies than working towards something like a professional sports career. However, there are actually a number of benefits for children to join sports clubs, which can help them to get on the path of being a professional athlete.

For example, teens who perform regular exercise experience lower levels of stress, and students who are involved in sports even have better mental health than those who are not, according to one survey. This can be especially beneficial for children who have become disengaged with school. They may feel overwhelmed and under pressure to get good grades, manifesting as a reluctance to attend class, and sports can provide a positive and enjoyable outlet, thus encouraging them towards a path of perhaps going pro one day.

Introducing options and cultivating positivity

When looking to encourage children to join a sports team (and eventually a professional career), it’s important to present and introduce options to them, and let them choose the sport they’re most interested in on their own. Ultimately, this can immensely take the pressure off to excel in a specific sport that they might not hold any interest in, and allow them to grow a passion for a sport they do enjoy naturally.

Additionally, ensuring a positive learning environment is another major way to keep their interest in pursuing a sport. This is especially true for those who are younger, as a negative environment full of criticism can not only discourage them from participating, but may even make them want to quit.

By finding the right sport, coach, and team to join, children will be able to focus on learning about the sport, as well as enjoy their time playing on a team, which can lead to a passion for the game, and encourage them to take on a professional career.

Attending professional sporting events

Another fantastic way to get children more involved in sports, and even encourage them towards a future playing professionally, is through attending pro sporting events. Not only will this show them first hand what professional sports are all about and introduce them to the idea of playing as a career, but can get them excited about working towards a rewarding career playing professionally as well.

Watching big games together as a family is another way to do this, and will allow children to discover their favorite teams and players who could become a source of inspiration for them to look up to later on.

While participation in sports seems to be decreasing among kids, there are a number of things that can be done to encourage them to play, which could lead to them pursuing a professional career later in life. Through presenting options and allowing them to attend pro sporting events, a positive environment can effectively be established, which will allow kids to enjoy the experience and introduce them to the idea of going pro one day.

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