Almost 8 million high school students and another 40 million children play sports. Why? According to a 2014 George Washington University study, 9 out of 10 kids say they play to have fun.
However youth sports has evolved into an $8 billion industry that promotes early specialization, private one-on-one coaching, multi-team layered participation and a significant financial and emotional investment by parents. Yet research tells us that less than 3% of high school athletes will go on to play college athletics and only a fraction of those, less than 1%, will ever play professionally.
Over-organized and adult driven youth sports have created an unsustainable frenzy that no longer serves youth and leaves parents afraid that if they don’t comply with the ‘more is better’ cultural pressure their child will be left behind. This tension has resulted in an unhealthy and pressure-filled experience for millions of students one that does little to develop their human potential.
We value sports because we believe students who are involved acquire something meaningful through their participation.
- Sports engage more individuals, families, and communities in a shared experience than any other cultural activity, organization or religion. Three out of four American families with school-aged children will have at least one child play an organized sport— approximated 45 million children.
- Sports present countless teachable moments where ethical values such as empathy, moral courage, fairness, responsibility, and respect for self and others can be developed.
- Sports connect students to caring adults in their learning community who foster social-emotional intelligence and academic success.
- Sports provide students with opportunities for moral, social, emotional, and civic growth.
However, one of the great myths in our culture is that participation in sports alone builds and develops character, as if doing a handstand, running a race, hitting a curveball, or simply suiting up are sufficient enough to strengthen a young person’s moral fiber.
We have a tremendous opportunity to provide students with growth opportunities that will sustain them beyond physical skill development and the ability to play and win a game. For this to happen, we must align communities around a deeper purpose.
For sports to provide students with human growth and moral development, we must move beyond defining success by the scoreboard, and create space for sports to be centered on a higher purpose.
The InSideOut Initiative provides a blueprint for systemic change that creates this space, elevates the purpose of the participation and holds school communities accountable utilizing the InSideOut System and the InSideOut Philosophy. Through well-defined pathways, supportive leadership and intentional coaching, students will develop much more than the physical skills of a game. They will develop the capacity to lead productive, morally rich, empathetic lives that will result in the betterment of society.