December 14th, 2019

FAME: Project Play aims to keep kids in sport for the long run

By Sonya Brown on September 11, 2019.

The Aspen Institute, an educational and policy studies organization based out of Washington, D.C., recently started an initiative called Project Play. Project Play is a multi-stage effort to provide the thought leadership to build opportunities for all individuals to participate in sport, and encourage active communities that foster a culture of health.

You might not be familiar with Project Play, but you most likely are familiar with a viral video that was released on social media using the hashtag #DontRetireKid.

#DontRetireKid is a campaign designed to drive public awareness of youth attrition in sports. The video shows a nine-year-old girl, marching to the top of the bleachers in between soccer games, to make a bold statement. She starts off by announcing her official retirement from sport. Stating that she has taken her game as far as it can go, she speaks to the pressure she has felt since she started the sport when she was five.

She continues to talk about the pressure she has felt from parents, coaches, and has been left with this feeling of inadequacy as if she’s not good enough.

The video ends with a statistic. “If 69 per cent of girls have given up on youth sports, what are we doing wrong?”

While I was watching the video, it made me reflect on my personal story as a young female athlete. I had many positive experiences during my years in youth sports, but I equally had many negative experiences as well. And when I think back on what caused those negative experiences, it was a combination of everything that young girl in the video alluded too. I was fortunate enough to have positive role models in my older siblings and parents which supported me and didn’t add to the pressure. I believe this was one of the main contributing factors that led to my continuation sports, and not my retirement. During middle school was when many of my female friends dropped out of sport. I can’t speak to the specifics of their choices, but I’m confident it was because of many of the issues stated above.

So, what are we doing wrong? Project Play has identified eight promising strategies (called the 8 Plays) that stakeholders can use to help every child become physically active through sports. They include:

– Ask kids what they want

– Reintroduce free play

– Encourage sport sampling

– Revitalize in-town leagues

– Think small

– Design for development

– Train all coaches

– Emphasize prevention

For more information on Project Play and #DontRetireKid visit aspenprojectplay.org.

Sonya Brown is a member of the FAME committee and can be reached at famemedicinehat@gmail.com.

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