Before we speak about “youth sports”, we must first have a working concept of what this includes. According to Doctors Frank Smoll and Ronald Smith (professors at the University of Washington in Seattle), “youth sports” refers to the 41 million children and adolescents (age 16 and under) who are involved with some form of adult-organized sport programs. In addition to that 41 million, an additional six to seven million more compete in interscholastic sports. Worldwide, of course, that number soars to tens of millions of child athletes who compete.
When we refer to youth sports, we are including those programs that are adult-organized with an arranged schedule using a prescribed set of rules. These contests (or, competitions) can be held within or outside a school. Activities including pick-up games and/or free play are not considered to be youth sports.
Studies have shown the benefits of both males and females participating in youth sports. Females, in particular, who have been exposed to an abundance of organized sport programs while they are physically and mentally developing, are more inclined to have an enhanced positive attitude towards athletics as they mature and develop over their female counterparts who are not exposed to these athletic opportunities. This results in more healthy youth that become more healthy adults. A healthy adult, in turn, contributes to our national state of well-being including physical, mental, social, economic, environmental and emotional health.
Sadly, statistics have shown that nearly 80% of all children involved with organized sport programs between the ages of 10 and 17 drop out. This enormous drop-out rate is consistent with what is being reported in other countries, as well. When delving into the reason, the reported primary reason cited was an overemphasis on winning. As we see in life as well as youth sports, when the primary emphasis is on winning, there are bound to be too many losers. With this being the case, we have near epidemic proportions of diseases within our youth that formerly appeared in an aging population such as: hypertension, diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease, and orthopedic problems.
Wouldn’t it be nice to have educated and committed health and wellness coaches that could work with the youth and help establish lifelong fitness routines and proper eating patterns? This is possible! And, it starts with education. Keiser University offers some three different programs that help prepare students who choose to enter this field and make an impact on the health, wellness, and fitness of multi generations including the youth. These programs include the AS in Sports Medicine & Fitness Technology, BS in Sports Medicine & Fitness Technology, and the BS in Exercise Science. Through the curriculum, students learn effective strategies and tools for working with youth sports. The final two months of the student’s curriculum includes their spending two months in the community performing an externship at a chosen site. There are several sites that include opportunities for working with the youth such as local high schools. Several of the graduates who have earned their BS in Sports Medicine & Fitness Technology have secured employment in the local High Schools to coach athletes and classroom teaching!
Little by little, we can win this battle that is plaguing our young generation due to inactivity. This starts with education. Your education can start here and today which can in turn lead to a brighter future for all.
Julie A. Snyder
University Department Chair
BS Sport Medicine & Fitness Technology, Exercise Science
Keiser University (COGSM)