Unfortunately, burnout is plaguing youth sports. Thankfully there’s a lot of good discussions happening around it. You hear so much about specialization and traveling all weekend to play games. It’s no surprise that in this day in age, kids can lose their passion to play. What can parents and coaches do about it?

If your child loves the game of baseball or softball, you know they love it, and you want them to continue to love it going forward, I would tell you that you need to do the best job as you can to create that environment that they still love playing it.

I would also tell you that somewhere around 11 to 13 years old, as parents, we go from have fun playing to for scholarships, to preaching that we got to start working harder. The shift changes in us way more than it does in our kids. They’re loving the game. They love playing it, and they’re starting to– maybe they might start to be thinking about success, and they might be thinking about stuff.

But it’s really us that’s like, oh, man. Maybe they could do this. Maybe they could get a scholarship. Maybe if we worked a little harder. Maybe if I did more of this. And then we put it on them. We put our expectations on them. There’s a shift that happens around then.

Then right around 15 years old, it’s like, hey, dad,  I don’t want to play baseball anymore. I don’t really like it. It’s not that fun anymore.

And in your mind, you’re like, man, I remember when you were 8, 9 years old. We’d be in the backyard playing football games, how much fun it was. What has happened between then and there?

I would tell you that most of the time, it’s on us– that something has changed in how we’ve put the expectations on them to take the love out of the game for them.

I think that when it comes to our kids, yeah, there’s times that we have to push them a little bit to get through whatever the thing is. But I would say that right around that sweet spot, if you have a kid in that range and you feel like maybe they’ve lost some of that, I would try to find fun ways to get back to where it was when they loved the game.

Sometimes,it could be as simple as a backyard football game. It could be just really fun, take away all of the expectations and the drills and the hard work and make it fun.

Like I said, we talked about the exit speed testing at practice. Practices should be high energy, high fun. That’s what a practice should be. And every station, if it’s competitive or a game or something like that, to me, that is how you keep players in the game so that when they get to high school and they move on, they’re still enjoying the game. And so I would just look at yourself going forward– hey, how do I get my kid to love this game more? Put more love and fun into the game. And I think that they will end up playing this game a lot more.

For myself, 9, 10 years old, I threw a tennis ball against the garage door for hours and I loved it and I had a great time. I played basketball in my driveway for hours until it got dark out, pretending I was Jordan or pretending I was this guy, and having imaginary games playing basketball in the driveway, just by myself.  I’ll tell you that 2018’s a lot different. That doesn’t happen that often. But we can still encourage fun ways to get out there and fun ways to do all the things that they want to do without making it all about performance. Too many times we’ve got coaches or parents saying “you got to do 100 line drives before you can go eat your meal.”

That sounds good from a hitting standpoint, but it doesn’t sound like a very fun thing to do. But if I said, hey, let’s go play Home Run Derby in the backyard with a wiffle ball bat, let’s do Home Run Derby or whatever the fun thing is, I’m thinking my kid would be much more likely to go out there and do it then.

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