USA Hockey, the governing body for youth hockey in America has implemented many initiatives that have grown the sport in the US. NHL players like Patrick Kane, and Buffalo Sabres number two draft choice Jack Eichel are proof of that.
The U.S. Olympic Committee adopted its principals for broader use, recommending that its 48 national governing bodies do the same. “We have all these resources.
We have 100,000 8-year-olds playing hockey. But we burn them up and turn them around. Not only is it not what’s best for the kids, it’s not what’s best for the sport.”
With those trends , youth participation became a key item on the agenda at the most recent meeting of the Association of Chief Executives for Sport, which brought together the heads of the nonprofit in Detroit in June.
“We’re starting to come together around this, and that’s a step in the right direction,” said Jim Tooley, CEO and executive director of USA Basketball. “It’s hard to legislate an unlegislatable space. It’s really free rein out there. What we’re trying to do is educate people — coaches and parents and everyone involved — to get kids going in the right direction at a younger age.
“Until you can solve greed, it’s a tough problem to put to bed. But getting the right information out there is the start.”
Sport specialization and year-round play long have been linked to burnout in sports such as tennis and figure skating. But doctors now also recognize a physical toll, suggesting that overtraining is behind an increase in injuries.”
Inactivity for children 6-17 approached 20 percent last year, continuing a disturbing trend spanning the last six years. While much of the evidence is reported as anecdotal, several national governing body heads said they worry that the push to specialize early weeds out good athletes before they have a chance to emerge. Among 6- to 17-year-olds, the average number of team sports played per participant has fallen 5.9 percent in the last five years, dropping from 2.14 to 2.01, according to the SFIA.
A BusinessWeek article cites that “Travel teams and year-round training can limit a child to one sport, which some groups say leads to burnout.”
USA Hockey conducted an internal study revealed that 43 percent of children who tried hockey quit by age 9, the national governing body reformed the program in 2010. It pulled the plug on its 12-and-under pee wee national championship, reducing travel for younger players. It banned body-checking, responding to concerns about concussions.
Most importantly, it laid out a series of recommendations — the platform of the ADM — adapting the game to make it more accessible and, in what was then an extreme example of going the opposite way of most other youth sports organizations. USA even encouraged hockey players to play other sports.
Five years later, hockey not only has stemmed its decline, but reversed it, increasing participation 44 percent, from 517,000 to 743,000 among ages 6-17, according to recently released data from the Sports and Fitness Industry Association. That growth has come even as football, baseball, basketball and soccer all have watched youth participation fall during that same span
Baby Boomers and Millennial’s grew up on a steady diet of sports and want the same experience for their children. It provided fun, friendship and taught some wonderful lessons about team play as well as kept them in good physical condition.
The issue must be addressed because it is the American way.