Why Does Sports Participation Drop Off by 13?

by Honolulu Mother

Apparently of the kids who play organized sports, only 30% are still playing by the end of middle school, as written up in this Washington Post article:

Why 70 percent of kids quit sports by age 13

The article suggests a number of reasons, which largely come down to the way the system is designed to be up-or-out and narrow down to the most serious and competitive players, in combination with similar increases in time demands and competitiveness in other activities forcing kids to choose just one or two things to focus on.

Do you have thoughts on this phenomenon? Is there a place for a once-a-week fun league in high school? Have your high schoolers found other fun ways to keep active when they’re not in organized sports?

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77 thoughts on “Why Does Sports Participation Drop Off by 13?

  1. My kid could be in a once-a-week basketball league at the Y (1 practice and 1 game weekly) but he says he’s too tired/wants to use his energy for school. He played TF2 online game competitively for a while, but got sick of the scheduling issues, so even that is out. Keeping active is, currently, gym class, walking 5 blocks to/from bus stop, and exercises in his room. I’d like him to get more sunshine, but not so much that it’s worth an ugly scene. Now that the waterpark has closed, I’d like to segue to other weekend activities.

  2. I coach rec sports in elementary school, and I can already see that some of this is the kids’ belief that they shouldn’t spend time on an activity if they are not the “best.” The rest is the ridiculous amount of time they spend doing these sports, especially in the non-rec leagues.

    The schedule for our league is 2 hours/week (practice and game) for a total of 6 weeks. Even the moderately competitive U8 leagues here have 4-5 hours/week in season, and the season is eight months of the year, with indoor lessons a must for the other four months.

    I think it is too much for these kids and they get tired of the drills and practices.

    In other news I can only share here, DD got into the gifted program. She’s not that excited since it seems to consist of extra research projects, and she has to make up the class work she misses as well.

  3. DS is too young for this to really be apparent yet – he is having fun doing Little League (baseball being his favorite sport) and some other sports through the Park District and school.

    Some of his classmates are in club travel soccer (in 2nd & 3rd grade!), and the kids complain constantly about how it is too much. We haven’t had any interest in starting that kind of madness yet. We turned down the “travel team” for LL (which seemed ridiculous last summer). I know my kid, and he needs a balance of organized activities and downtime, even if in his downtime he chooses to play baseball at the park (which he often does, even in winter). We said we’d revisit travel baseball in a couple years if he is interested. And this is just traveling around the city & a few suburbs – not overnight/out of state.

    I will say that this was one thing that was good about going to a smaller school in a smaller town – while our school sports teams were competitive, they were also pretty inclusive and most athletically-inclined kids played multiple sports – sometimes one each season.

    I also think it is interesting that so many pro athletes played multiple sports in HS & had to chose which one to pursue further. Obviously, there is some natural ability & talent there that all the private coaching in the world can’t get out of a kid who doesn’t have it.

  4. It’s the lack of rec leagues and the increasing time commitment. There’s also competition from other activities, which also require increasing time commitments.

    I’ve mentioned quite a few times :) that I coach my kids baseball and softball teams. Even playing rec, they were generally two practices a week for 1.5-2 hours, and then 2 games a week, which were generally about 3 hours including warm ups and such, then add in 30 minutes of travel time each way for a lot of the games. Plus playoffs at the end of the seasons.

    The better players move up to the competitive/travel teams, which are an even bigger time commitment, and that leaves fewer players for the rec leagues. And the lesser players lose interest or get pushed out, even at the rec level. The pressure to specialize at younger ages also hurts, because kids get burnt out like Sky said. And there are very few rec leagues in any sport for kids in HS.

    And the competition from other activities hurts, as I mentioned. For example, there is a girl on DD’s team who is really into theater, and she was in a show last fall and it was a struggle for her to balance that with softball.

    Is there a place for a once-a-week fun league in high school?

    Absolutely. The hard part is field/court time. Around here, there is so much competition for the baseball and softball fields, especially in the spring. Most of the rec basketball leagues can only get their teams one practice a week because it’s so hard to get gym time. For hockey, ice time is ridiculously hard to get. But I know DS and his friends would love to play in something like an organized flag football league that was just one day a week for games.

  5. I also think it is interesting that so many pro athletes played multiple sports in HS & had to chose which one to pursue further. Obviously, there is some natural ability & talent there that all the private coaching in the world can’t get out of a kid who doesn’t have it.

    College coaches prefer multisport athletes. It’s better developmentally because they use different muscles, they are less likely to get burnt out, and they have more upside in whatever sport because they haven’t been specializing.

  6. When I was in HS we had an intramural basketball league that I played in. The varsity and JV teams were really competitive, and you had to be really good and/or tall to make one of those teams.

    It was a lot of fun, and provided a way for many of us to get some exercise. IIRC, it was one or two games a week for a couple of months. It was a start for me, as I played intramural bball in college, then played many years in a company league, and regular lunchtime pickup games at work, all of which provided me with a fun way to get some exercise.

  7. For my kids and their peers, narrowing down of activities happens across all ECs, not just sports. It’s also very common to see kids taking piano or violin lessons in elementary school, but dropping that in middle or high school; same with dance and musical theater.

    Part of it is that the schoolwork load increases as the kids get older, forcing some choices.

  8. Here there are enough players for a soccer Rec league till the kids are 18. We never ventured into competitive soccer because DS is not that athletic. DS likes rec and he has had the same coach and same core team of players for many seasons. It was sad this season as one of the longtime players decided he didn’t want to play next season. His parents were quite upset. They had become used to being soccer parents.

  9. To my knowledge, my kids’ school does not have intramurals. I think part of that is the court time issue DD mentioned.

    They did have lunchtime leagues in MS that took all comers and played on outdoor courts.

  10. Rec soccer parents are an interesting bunch because it is such a mix of schools including home/online schooling. It is a snapshot of the city.

  11. One of the benefits of small private schools is that most kids can play on one of the school teams, even if they would have had zero chance at a large public school

  12. Scarlett, I agree, that is a huge thing. The down side is that there might not be enough kids to field teams in some sports. One of the high schools that DD considered (which is around 900 students) doesn’t have a softball team, they do a co-op team with another school.

  13. My feeling is that once kids reach 13, other social pressures come into play and whereas when they were younger it didn’t matter so much if they were bad at something, once a teenager that’s a hit to their esteem and so they direct their energies toward things they really enjoy and/or are good at.

    From the lens of having gone thru this (includes local Little League, All-Stars, nationally competitive 16-17-18yo travel baseball, local club aka “house” ice hockey, travel hockey, middle school & high school up to varsity, volleyball, football, baseball, bowling, track) with my guys: each really found his own level.

    DS1 wanted to pursue the ‘baseball beyond high school thing’ and got a couple of offers at different levels of college competitiveness but in the end decided club level was right for him. DS2 enjoyed his three varsity sports in HS but never ever wanted to go beyond. Intramurals at college are what he enjoys now. DS3 grudgingly played varsity football his senior year…honestly, it might/could have looked bad strategically to quit without some excellent reason…loves playing local ice hockey and is a leader on the HS track team.

    In retrospect, travel hockey…a total of ~8 seasons across 3 kids…was a time & money suck. Competitive baseball for DS1 was costly and took a lot of time but overall I judge worthwhile because it did give him some opportunities and probably focused him on college search and doing decently in HS at an earlier age than his youngest brother.

    I agree with others who said there is too much of an up-or-out view in too many places. But, likewise in e.g. official Little League there is baseball and softball up to age 18. Maybe not in your local league but if you can find enough kids who want to play and someone who will volunteer to coach those levels can be added. Or if the next town over has it but yours doesn’t, you really can cross boundaries. There is CYO basketball which is not very competitive thru high school. And around here “house” ice hockey is very popular among the kids who don’t play travel or high school.

  14. My experience is opposite of this article – I stayed with one sport through MS and HS. I was decent enough and went to small enough schools that I made the team. But I did see a drop off. Maybe 5 players from my rec team played in HS. Most chose other activities in HS or lost interest. Pick a reason for the interest loss.

    I do worry about organized sports for DS. I want him to get out and play when he’s old enough. There are no more pick up games in the park because kids are so over-scheduled, so it’s not like he’ll be able to do that. But the leagues are so competitive and expensive. I really don’t want to over-schedule his life either.

    I say this but the week he starts daycare/school (2 mornings a week), he starts a 2-3 year old soccer program. Its 45 min once a week for 6 weeks. Lord knows what they will teach them, but at least he’ll run around with other kids.

  15. High school kids’ brains pare down the neural pathways that aren’t being used and they develop stronger interests in some things. Doesn’t it make sense that sports would be like that too?

  16. We have rec sports until 7th grade so kids that just want to have fun and play are covered until the end of 6th. All of the competitive kids play on a club team so they don’t get pissed when the Rec team isn’t filled with pro athletes.

    Everything seems to change when they turn 12/13 because rec teams disappear because our school offers modified sports for 7th and 8th graders. It sounds like intramurals in some of your towns, but the kids have to try out. Only 12 to 15 kids from the 7th and 8th grade can make a basketball team. Swimming and track are easier because they can accommodate 50 to 75 kids. It’s less competitive to make these teams vs. the varsity teams in the HS. There are still A LOT of kids that want to play, but get shut out every year.

  17. I think it was about the same when I was growing up. Rec went through 6th grade and then you could try out for the middle school teams in 7th grade (but I think almost everyone made them). I remember being on a travel basketball team in 5th and 6th grades. Both of my parents were very good high school athletes so we tried a lot of sports (soccer, softball, basketball, tennis, ice skating, horse back riding and gymnastics). In high school it was more competitive and I only played softball after playing soccer, basketball, tennis and softball through 8th grade.

    Rec leagues are through churches around here and seem to go through age 14. DD plays soccer and basketball and has played softball in the past and DS has tried soccer and baseball. I have told the kids they can only play one sport at a time but must play at least two sports per year and no one starts until the age of 4 (because younger leagues are just silly and I should really amend this to age 5). I will make all of the kids try tennis because that is a sport you can play throughout your life.

  18. We have had our kids in lots of different activities to expose them to different things and to find things that they enjoy. Our older kid has always been very physically active. As a baby, I’d set him down on the floor and he’d crawl around for hours. He loves competing. He was in a rec soccer program and wanted to do more, so we signed him up a few years early for traveling soccer. He loves going to practice. He watches other kids’ games because he loves watching too. He loves competing. I would be surprised if he stopped playing sports when he got to high school. We enjoy it too because it is fun to watch your kid doing something they love.

    His cousin is one of the best in the country in their sport and will be at a top 5 Division I program next year. They were very good in other sports too but specialized once in high school due to the wear and tear of the other sport on their body. My sibling easily has spent over $10K a year on funding club teams, private training, travel costs for the sport. Sibling didn’t pay it because of the hope of a scholarship but because it was what their child loved doing. Athletes at that level get their because they have a combination of athletic ability, skill, and drive. Between time commitment and cost, I think it reduces the amount of participation.

    I don’t expect or want my kids to get scholarships. I want them to enjoy playing sports. I’d like them to play on a team and in an individual sport as I think there is a lot you learn from both. I played a team sport through college and wish now I would have also picked up an interest in an individual sport as well like running, tennis, or golf. I’ve lost my competitive drive and also have aged out of playing my team sport. I’m not interested in Cross Fit or running races, and I almost wish I were though as that would motivate me to work out more.

    Our kids will go to a small, private high school so they’ll have opportunities to play sports even if they aren’t doing traveling or clubs. Over 80% of the students are in a sport and a similar percentage are in arts related stuff. I like the liberal arts/well-rounded approach and opportunities they will get their vs. being at a larger school.

  19. DS’s high school is uber-competitive in every sport, so no chance of playing even JV unless you are on a top travel team year round. So DS ran cross country and track. He played CYO basketball (Rec type league) throughout high school. His high school had intramurals but those conflicted with his other activities.
    He’s playing a club sport in college and playing a couple other sports in intramurals (one with his dorm and one with his fraternity). He’s also running on his own. He loves to play sports so I’m glad he has those opportunities.

  20. But, likewise in e.g. official Little League there is baseball and softball up to age 18. Maybe not in your local league but if you can find enough kids who want to play and someone who will volunteer to coach those levels can be added.

    But again, you need to get enough kids for a few teams, and there just aren’t. Of course it’s the chicken-egg question – would there be enough kids if the league existed or does the league not exist because there isn’t enough interest? I’m going with B – the leagues we play in all have fewer teams in the older age groups.

  21. This past fall, our softball league had to combine 14U with 12U because there weren’t enough 14U teams.

  22. My two oldest went the opposite way. My oldest never did organized sports until 8th grade when he was able to join the HS cross country team, He loves it and does it every year. My middle kid tried soccer when he was 5 and utterly hated it, and was a couch potato for many years. At some point, I convinced him to run some road races with me, and then he went into MS modified winter track, and then he decided to take a chance on HS cross country this year. And he loved it too. The team is fantastic, very social, and coed too. He now is doing HS winter track and not liking it as much so I doubt he will do it next year, But he was willing to try, which was a huge change for him

  23. DS thought about the school soccer team. I could pick him up from practice after school but the games were at different schools all over town and there was no way I could get him there with work.
    Has this been your experience as well ? Wondering how others handled this.

  24. Louise, in most places I think teams take a school bus to away games and back to school. Otherwise–> carpool.

  25. I feel like we have run the gamut with sports in our family. We did the competitive soccer and swimming, and fairly quickly decided sports with that high intensity were not a good fit for our family.

    We are fortunate to live in a place where there are a lot of other, more low-key options. Lots of rec teams for sports. The year-round travel teams are so intense that the kids who are really committed to those play for those teams instead of their school teams, which means being on the school team is pretty attainable in a lot of sports.

    So, our kids now do tennis, golf, basketball, swim team, and soccer regularly (obviously not all at the same time). None of it is intense.

  26. “It’s the lack of rec leagues and the increasing time commitment.”

    What DD said. Around here, it seems like you’re either on a travel team/HS team/both by 9th grade, or you’re done. It comes across as all very purposeful, i.e., well, if my kid isn’t good enough to make a competitive team to get a college scholarship, time to invest in more SAT prep/dance lessons/tuba lessons instead.

    It also doesn’t help that the rec leagues follow the same seasons as the school teams, which means that the kids who are good enough to play on the school teams have to choose (I know one girl who played varsity softball and rec league, and her schedule was just insane — she’d show up some nights directly from a game, still in her school uniform). DD tried to play both last year, and it almost killed her/us — the school game schedule was literally compressed into a month, with double-headers almost every M/W/F, so to then have rec league T/Th/Sat (2 of the 3 every week) was overwhelming — especially with all of the end-of-year school projects going on as well. So much that I’m not sure she wants to play either this year.

    I think if we had an informal once-a-week-just-for-fun league in the off-season, the kids might really enjoy the chance to run around and have fun, vs. always having to be so focused and intent and rushed. Really sucks the fun out of it all.

  27. Louise – after school sports is how I manage to put 75 – 100 miles on my car every day :) All of it is in just 10 or 15 mile spurts, but when you’re doing it for two kids, every day, it adds up!

  28. “DS thought about the school soccer team. I could pick him up from practice after school but the games were at different schools all over town and there was no way I could get him there with work.
    Has this been your experience as well ? Wondering how others handled this.”

    They don’t just take the school bus there and back?

  29. Louise, is that MS or HS? My experience has been that the HS teams always bus together to the road games. For our MS teams, parents had to get the kids to the games. It was a royal PITA, even with carpooling.

    The year-round travel teams are so intense that the kids who are really committed to those play for those teams instead of their school teams, which means being on the school team is pretty attainable in a lot of sports.

    This is the one good thing (IMO) of the rise of travel sports. It’s opened up the HS teams a bit for the lesser players.

    LfB, I mentioned it before, it’s impressive that they have rec leagues for the HS ages there.

    I had a few kids on my baseball last spring who were playing on their MS teams as well, and sometimes they would come late to practice straight from a game, still in uniform. I thought it was kind of nuts. I appreciated the effort, at the same time, I did hold it against them a little bit with positions and batting order slots. My feeling was the kids who were at the full practices deserved it more. I also had a kid who missed quite a few practices and games because he also played soccer, and I held that against him as well.

  30. No one has mentioned dance yet. My 8 year old has mentioned that she would like to take dance, but the only programs around are the ultra competitive, multi-day per week, with performances, and she is not interested in that level of commitment. Not to mention that with no prior experience she is already behind the rest of the pack. She just wants to dance around and have fun for 30 minutes a week. The rec dance programs seem to fade away by early elementary or only have classes available at 4pm, when I’m at work.

  31. My DD does do organized sports – soccer and lacrosse. She is pretty good but very lazy so she is never going to make the travel teams. She mainly likes the social aspect. She has started fencing classes now – she had been asking to do fencing for about a year but I could not find a convenient location. And then, the Y added fencing this fall. She really likes it and the coach seems to think she is good at it. It involves weapons, what’s not to like!

  32. One of the downsides of cross country is that my oldest can’t do anything else during the season because of the practice schedule. He can’t take orchestra in school because of his schedule, and he can’t do the afterschool orchestra because of practice. But my DH joined a community orchestra this past year, and my oldest started going to their rehearsals over the summer, so now he is able to play with them

  33. Lemon — my kids kinda did the serious, ramping up type of dance programs at that age (they’re not in it now), but I know there were also some once-a-week classes you could find — it’s just that the dance studios offered pretty much only the full track, advancement when ready, for children. However, I know here there are once-a-week classes you can find as one-offs, offered at the Y or through a community center or a little shopping center shared studio with different tenants offering different stuff. Once you have teens, the drop-in classes beginner aimed at adults start to become available depending on the place — my older two did a Saturday morning adult beginner class at their old studio for a couple of years, before dropping that due to conflicts with other activities.

  34. “One of the benefits of small private schools is that most kids can play on one of the school teams, even if they would have had zero chance at a large public school”

    That’s also a benefit at some large private schools. Several of them here have multiple teams in popular sports. E.g., they have both DI and DII basketball teams; although only the DI teams get to compete for state championships, at least the DII players get to play, and many of them move from DII to DI between Jr. and Sr. year.

    It’s also not uncommon for players to get promoted for single games when some kids in the higher teams have to miss games; common reasons for missing games include taking SATs and college recruiting visits.

  35. “No one has mentioned dance yet.”

    Hey, I did, at 11:08.

    Tying back to DD’s comments about kids missing or being late for practice because of other teams, one of the common reasons for kids on DD’s softball team missing games was dance recitals.

    DD and many of her friends gave up dance because it conflicted with softball.

  36. MM, I know this would be too much hassle to find unless there’s one right in your town, but I’ll bet your daughter would like the Schola St. George or something similar — the people that do swordfighting as a medieval martial art rather than a sport.

  37. “Louise, in most places I think teams take a school bus to away games and back to school. Otherwise–> carpool.”

    One thing we really liked when DD played on the school team was that it was so much easier for DW and I. Practice was at school, so no need to drive her to practice, and transportation to away games was via school bus. The locker room was also available so they could shower after practice.

  38. “It also doesn’t help that the rec leagues follow the same seasons as the school teams”

    That’s not how it works here for most sports.

    DD’s school team encouraged the players to join a certain club team, which was inactive during the school season, and that’s also the case for most sports.

    Locally, soccer, and I believe volleyball, are the main sports that have high-level club leagues, high enough that players from those teams get recruited by colleges without having played for HS teams.

  39. In a lot of sports, most of the college recruiting is through the club/travel teams and not the high schools. I know softball and volleyball are really big in the that regard, and baseball is getting there.

  40. Our kids did ballet at the “good” ballet school (goes up to pre-professional) through last year. They don’t start 2x/week until age 8, so this would have been #1’s first year with it. The two older ones didn’t want to continue when we moved, so we have #3 at a very small dance studio. I think the rec/club level is more common here through older ages, but we haven’t gotten there yet so YMMV. One of #1’s friends is already in a 3x/week sport (swimming). We have trouble just finding activities that all of them can do that aren’t too far away from each other, etc., and fit in with russian math class (the one must-do). I have been doing ice skating with all of them this fall, which is great because there are different levels all at the same class time, so they are all skating at once.

  41. “if my kid isn’t good enough to make a competitive team to get a college scholarship”

    I think a lot of parents overestimate the likelihood and financial benefits of athletic scholarships, and underestimate the cost of pre-college sports participation.

    OTOH, for totebaggers, athletic prowess can be the hook for a kid to get into a good school.

    Anecdote I heard recently: one of DS’ classmates, who excels at multiple sports, is being recruited by a HSS because of that. He has an offer conditional on his getting a 1250 SAT score (out of 1600). This is for a school where the 25%ile is 1490, consistent with the theory that athletes disproportionately populate the bottom quartile at such schools.

  42. In Seattle, lots of kids play soccer – and so there are a lot of different leagues of varying competitiveness through high school. There are at least 5 levels ranging from not particularly competitive (you’re guaranteed a spot on the team) to very competitive. In high school, the high school season and the club season are at different times of year.

    DD goes to a public high school that generally does not have super strong sports teams. The plus of this is that DD was able to play lacrosse for the first time as a 10th grader last year and really enjoyed it. She’s thinking of playing basketball next year as hopefully she’ll have a little more free time (she will finish her IB degree at the end of this year (her junior year). This is in addition to the soccer that she plays year-round. DD doesn’t want to play competitive sports in college but I think she’d have a lot of fun on intramural teams so I hope she does that (or things like joining clubs for climbing, kayaking, skiing, etc.).

    DS is the opposite of DD – he’d be happy to sit on the couch and not do any physical activity. I’ve told DS he has to do something – I don’t care what it is. In the past, he did aikido – but this past fall, he tried cross-country and loved it. It’s the perfect sport for him – somewhat social, but it doesn’t matter if he’s the worst runner on the team (unlike a team sport where if you’re on the field and not very good, it could affect whether the team wins/loses). He’s going to try track this spring. In the interim, DH and I try to get him to run or bike with us on the weekends.

  43. Lemon – check on Zenon Dance at http://www.zenondance.org/school.html. We went there when the kids were little. It was downtown, but now they have a location off 169 in Edina. Classes already started for winter, but it looks like might work for you, and you probably could join mid-class. Classes are on Saturday. Here is a description of ballet:

    “Join Zenon Dance School at our new satellite location at DanceXchange Studios in Edina! This 10-week ballet course for 7-10 year-olds is enrollment-only. The class focuses on teaching technique with an emphasis on proper body alignment and dancer safety. Short combinations are taught at the barre and in the center. Work towards an informal showing for parents at the end of the session. Classes run January 7 – March 11, 12-1pm”

  44. It is great – teaches them variables at a very young age so they don’t get confused by the time they get to algebra. #1 is already learning 3a + 4 = 31 etc.

  45. The only school sports team I see DS joining is wrestling (no running around)). I don’t think he’ll get on the soccer team.

    My DD, OTOH would want to be on the dance team and a sports team. She does Girls on the Run which has quite a large following in our area

  46. L, aren’t they doing that as a standard part of the early math curriculum now? I would swear mine were doing a bunch of that sort of problem (but maybe with __ in place of a, 3 x __ + 4 = 31) in 2nd or 3rd grade, and parents were told it was to get them accustomed to the idea of variables.

  47. Louise — quote from my daughter when younger, and interested in a kid MMA class one of her brothers was doing — “I *need* to wrestle with boys because it’s what I’m used to.”

  48. L, A friend of mine in Sweden posted a picture of his 15-year old stepdaughter’s math homework (making a joke about one of the problems). Even without knowing most of the vocabulary, I could figure out the equation for the word problem. It was very similar to what DS is doing in school now. I posted a pic of some of his homework and he and his friends all agreed. Not as comprehensive a survey as your article, but iI felt better!

  49. Our experience is that for the most part any/all ECs start ramping up the demands in middle school – sports, martial arts, scouts, music, dance. The amount of direct time in class/games/meetings and/or the amount of outside preparation/practice time requires kids to start streamlining what they participate in.

    Starting at middle school it seems that most of the kids on the varsity or however they designate the highest team of that age group is primarily made up of the kids who play for the school and on a club team. Volleyball is big here and club season starts right as the school season is ending and kids don’t have much time off. High school practices every day in class 80 min, plus after school practice 80 minutes every day there isn’t a game, plus 1-2 games a week and/or a weekend tournament. The club team seems to play in a tournament almost every weekend, plus their during the week practices. I am not sure how you can do that level of involvement in multiple sports/activities AND also be on the advanced academic track. Swim is also big around here and usually only starts in school in high school, so the kids have been on club and/or summer swim teams before that. One of DD#1’s friends is a swimmer. In middle school she was swimming two a day practices with her club team, plus meets on the weekends. Her grades did suffer a bit, but that was her passion.

    Yes, smaller schools and private schools have more flexibiity because they often NEED all the possible participants to field a team.

  50. HM – I’m not sure, but whatever they’re doing in school always seems much less advanced than the homework that comes home from Russian math.

  51. My second child is now 13 and I have seen the drop in participation at this age. The recreation leagues in our small town (pop. 15k) start to fizzle out earlier than age 13. The competition between parents to say that their child is a travel or club player is a bit nutty and turns rec into a dirty word, which is sad. This may not be a problem in larger towns where rec leagues are a good option AND readily available.

    It’s a tough age socially in that they seem to be highly sensitive to embarrassment, if you’re not the best, if your team loses, or if you miss a shot etc. you may be very upset and not want to go through the humiliation again.

    Teammates can be an issue as kids who got along well in younger grades suddenly aren’t so supportive of a less-than-perfect teammate. (Remember how cute they were in 2nd grade when everyone got along? It was bliss, wasn’t it?)

  52. “Our experience is that for the most part any/all ECs start ramping up the demands in middle school – sports, martial arts, scouts, music, dance.”

    That’s not necessarily the case here for music.

    I’ve talked to the parents of some of the outstanding musicians in/from my kids’ school, and one thing I’ve heard in common is that starting in MS, schoolwork takes an increasing chunk of time, and the kids are no longer able to put in as much practice time as before, and that takes another step that way in HS.

    So kids that practiced 2 to 4 hours a day had to cut back on their practice time. They had to become more efficient in their practicing, but the development done prior to MS was typically key to their success in music.

  53. “The only school sports team I see DS joining is wrestling ”

    Up here, Bowling is another winter sport.

    And there’s always shot put & discus for track…those guys don’t do much running.

  54. This topic is timely. I have to think of the rest of the year. That means thinking about what summer camps to sign my kids up for, difficult this year as they age out of certain things and into others. The sports sign ups will be for the next academic year.

  55. Finn, I don’t think any of us are talking about activities ramping up FROM 2-4 hours a day. We’re taking about ramping up from a few days a week or a half hour a day TO 2-4 hours a day.

  56. And there’s always shot put & discus for track…those guys don’t do much running.

    You’d be surprised. My nephew tried that his freshman or sophomore year, and he dropped out because the practices were too intense. And he was a varsity soccer player.

  57. “And he was a varsity soccer player.”

    Soccer players typically do not have the body type best suited for shot put & discus throwing.

  58. For DH and myself, we didn’t grow up with organized sports or other activities. My kids have mostly been good sports through all the learning or comical situations we find ourselves in. However, I have been told never to sign them up for a climbing tower in the midst of a Southern summer.

  59. I have to tell this story….

    DD had a dance competition in the next county, a more rural one, forty minutes away.
    We had never been there and she was getting anxious that we would be late. We get there in time but there seems to be a line of vehicles turning into the parking lot. I then see the big red flashing board – Welcome to the County Arena ! Bridal show, Gun show and Dance Competitors !
    There are three big exhibition halls. The bridal show attendees park their sedans and walk merrily to their exhibition, the gun show attendees, guys with beards, leave their pick up trucks, some dressed in camouflage, boots, a few guns and stride determinedly to the middle exhibition. The dance parents leave their SUVs and minivans with their daughters, younger kids, parents in tow to go the dance competition.

  60. Milo,

    Even crazier is they let you pull up any school and it gives the incomes at age 34. Princeton 108k, CalTech 93k, Stanford 101k.

  61. Soccer players typically do not have the body type best suited for shot put & discus throwing.

    First, my point was that he was in good physical shape to handle the workouts and he still struggled with them because they weren’t as easy as implied.

    Second, he actually does have the body type for it – he’s a very big kid (tall and broad).

  62. “Locally, soccer, and I believe volleyball, are the main sports that have high-level club leagues, high enough that players from those teams get recruited by colleges without having played for HS teams.”

    Yes, we have the high-level club teams that go off-season. I was talking about the rec leagues, where there are no tryouts and there’s really no pressure except to learn and have fun.

    I could totally see DS wrestling — he’s got the body type for it, although he’d probably struggle with the weight classes because he’d be up against bigger/older kids (the boy is just freaking dense; I swear, his bones must be made of solid pig-iron). On the plus side, he is sort of the classic immoveable object. And I think he’s going to have his dad’s very-wide-shoulder build. Alas, his One True Love appears to be basketball (where he will be neither quick nor tall enough to play by the time he hits HS), and that runs during the same season as wrestling.

    Discus is another awesome idea — another thing he’d totally have the build for.

  63. Laura, muscle weighs more than fat. If your kid weighs more than he looks, maybe he has a lot of muscle.

  64. @SM — honestly, I think it’s bones, because I can’t figure out what else; it’s not like he’s in great shape or anything. I know I posted this before (Halloween), but this is the kid — http://imgur.com/OtYEYyH — you can see he’s not exactly porky (he actually looks bigger here than he really is because he’s got jeans and a long-sleeved shirt on underneath), but he’s at the 90th+ percentile for weight for his age.

  65. I totally missed the “Field” portion of Track and Field. Hadn’t thought about discus and shot put. So, if DS wants to, he can do that.

    DD is asking me about tennis but first we have to get into the swim and tennis club. I hadn’t expected any wait at all but apparently there is a short wait list – we should be able to get in. Not going to the one with the three year wait list (Nothing here has that sort of wait list).

  66. “DD is asking me about tennis but first we have to get into the swim and tennis club.”

    Are public courts and/or USTA programs not an option?

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