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The Teenage Tumble: Why Teenagers Are Leaving Sport

ALPJrALPJr Posts: 2,388 Mega Baller
edited December 2020 in News & Other Stuff
I saw this on the Tournament Waterski Australia site. The author makes some good points. Although I don’t agree with everything, overall it’s good food for thought.


  • jgills88jgills88 Posts: 65 Baller
    Reading through the article, a lot of it can definitely be applied to skiing (and much of it already has from what I've seen!).

    Putting skiers ahead of skiing (especially at young ages) is a great way to retain people in the sport as they grow past just doing it with their parents, or as part of a collegiate club. Making sure every skier is having fun and cared about really helps retain people in the sport. I forget who said it, but someone announcing last year's NCWSA Nationals made a point to be excited for the first rounds of each D2 event. They mentioned that even though many of those skiers are not going to run a pass, do a sideslide, or land a jump, they deserve 5 minutes of attention just as much as the Jaimee Bulls of the tournament. Making the experience of just being on the water fun can create lasting memories! And hopefully someone who has fun even though they aren't great will continue to have fun and stay in the sport, where they will inevitably get better. They may never cross the big milestones, but they will keep participating.

    As far as adapting official rules to people new to the sport (whether they are young, or just getting into skiing), my state has started a "novice rule" for tournaments that I think really helps people feel that slaloming in a tournament it worth it, even if they have never run a pass. Basically, if you have never run a pass in a tournament, your opener counts for your score, and if you don't run it, you still get 3 more unscored passes to ski. It helps keep kids on the water, and gives the fresh adults more worth for their tournament fee
    Akron Waterski -- Always looking for water
  • Stevie BoyStevie Boy Posts: 2,193 ★★★★Quad Panda Award Recipient ★★★★
    Generally children like to be around other children with similar interests, they like to hang out and have fun, in my opinion don;t push too hard, they have to want to do it.

    Addicted To Carbon Fibre

  • Than_BoganThan_Bogan Posts: 6,877 Mega Baller
    edited December 2020
    @Horton I feel like I didn't read the same article. I don't get an "everybody gets a trophy" vibe at all. My sense is a guy who deeply values structured competition and wants to figure out how to get that experience to more people.

    Here's an example of how I think I am applying some of these concepts in my own coaching:

    I place huge value on having lots of girls vaulter who can clear around 5'6" on my crew. Firstly, one or two of those will emerge some day to go a lot higher. Secondly, they will recruit somebody else with more natural ability.

    But that doesn't in any way imply that a 5'6" vaulter is just as good at vaulting as a 10' vaulter. What (I hope!) it implies is that I value everyone who wants to work to get better, because that's where I see the real core value in sport. At the same time, I want them to look up (literally) to the folks competing for a state championship and think "maybe I could be that good someday."

    The trophies are for the people who win in a structured environment. But if you don't have fun along the way, not many people will ever get to the point of vying for a trophy.
    Nathaniel Bogan -- GUT Padawan
  • HortonHorton Posts: 30,230 Administrator
    @Than_Bogan I guess my reaction is because that article felt like an indictment of structure.

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  • dislanddisland Posts: 1,463 Mega Baller
    @horton please read the article again. I didnt see anything in there about taking the competition part out of sport. He wants to take the BS out.

    Here are a couple of random ideas for waterskiing

    1. plan tournaments so the kids know when they are skiing. The old school way of having everyone show up at 7:00 AM, to find out they dont ski until 11:00 sucks.

    2. Make sure there is a social plan for tournaments where there are enough juniors in attendance when it makes sense.

    3. Overlay some fun tounament ideas on top of the usual competition to make it fun. Not instead of but in addition to.

    I ma sure there are a ton more ideas along these lines that folks can come up with
    Dave Island- Princeton Lakes
  • Fastguy888Fastguy888 Posts: 40 Baller
    edited December 2020
    The lack of opportunities for children, adults and teens to fail is the problem. I'm no sports phycologist but greatly enjoy studying this subject. Physically demanding sports presented as a means to entertain oneself falls short of justifying the extra work and risk required to participate. Recent studies of "fandom" show our brains are tricked and behave similarly watching sport on TV or playing a video game vs. physically participating.

    I believe its the bodies physical recovery processes and humility physical sports offer that make them so awesome and worthwhile. When your mind and body are pushed to failure; you experience a physical response by becoming stronger, you are able to build new mental synopsis that turn fear into a series of solvable problems to become better.

    It would also help teens if 3-event skiing disciplines had better public exposure. The current low public exposure and cool factor are likely exponentially detrimental to teen participation. A teen wired brain is looking to participate in things that will get them a mate and fame. The self fulfilment and praise from parents or coaches lessens. If a teen is lucky enough to have a circle of skiing peers that is awesome; but as soon as they can replace skiing with an activity they perceive as gaining them significantly greater fame or a mate, they will jump.
  • scuppersscuppers Posts: 470 Baller
    @Fastguy888 Spot on!
    Chuck Link, Deland Florida
  • RichRich Posts: 276 Solid Baller
    My family all skied, with my kids all being good enough to be national competitors until they reached highschool. In highschool other sports & specialization start to happen. I personally skied in boys division back in the 70's and played varsity football & varsity wrestling. As I look back even then to be really competitive in skiing I would have had to devote more time to skiing & missed HS sports. I did manage to win a regionals in boys & compete in Nationals. But my ski season always was cut short for Football summer practices & training. My son went to the same HS and had an outstanding HS football career as a running back, leading to college opportunities, but he didn't have time to practice waterskiing to be at the higher levels & being competitive, he didn't like not being at the top, so in HS he skied some weekends and just had fun. It did help him to be disciplined at an early age as he tried all sports from skiing, football, basketball, baseball, but specialization starts at about highschool. All my kids were skiing a lot by age 6 & going to clinics ect… It was all positive. He took all that discipline into football, and after that ended up doing martial arts, MMA for a couple of years & is a blackbelt in juijuitsi which took 13 years. I took up skiing again in men 2 & still ski in men 6. Skiing is a great sport in that you can learn young & pick it up again later in life. Its also a sport that requires hours & hours of practice to be good at. Even gifted athletes that dont train will get beat by those that put in the time. Competitive water skiing is a huge time commitment and is a lifestyle for those at the top.
  • escmanazeescmanaze Posts: 867 ★★★Triple Panda Award Recipient ★★★
    Right at the start I disagree with the guy.

    It's not this, It's not this, It's not this, It's not this. The only reason is this boogie man right here!!!

    Nah dude. It is like a zillion reasons all put together and different for each individual kid and family. Don't tell me it is all this one reason and we just need to fix this one reason and then everything is all good again and it is 1975 all over again. No.
  • Orlando76Orlando76 Posts: 1,292 ★★★Triple Panda Award Recipient ★★★
    Kids are falling out of skiing because of the skiers. Unless mom and dad ski, there’s no opportunity for the high end snob private water skiers to allow a guy to bring his 2-10 yo kids and teach them to ski and get them introduced to skiing.
  • ClydesdaleClydesdale Posts: 171 Baller
    @lpskier nailed it. My son was getting pretty good. At 19 he was running 28 off/36. But... in the northeast where we live there were very few other kids his age skiing. At tournaments he’d hang out with 1 kid 5 years younger, but the age just wasn’t close enough to form a real friendship. So... now he’s 22 and no longer skis. He loved it when he was doing it, and I hope he’ll get back into it later when age isn’t such a factor any longer. Compare this to when I (we) were young in the 70s and 80s. I remember LOCAL tournaments with 50+ young people close to my age. And those that didn’t compete knew enough about skiing to at least think it was “cool”. Take all those peers away and would I have stuck with it? Probably not.
  • JimboJimbo Posts: 24 Baller
    edited December 2020
    @lpskier and @Clydesdale have it - at least for the teen competitor. My son, who has the competence @Luzz found to be important (national level skier) and identifies with the competence he has in the sport is increasingly driven by the author's point #10, Social programs - he continues to ski because he has friends who ski. If he didn't have several skiing friends who attend tournaments, I believe he would not want to ski. While he practices to achieve the competence, I believe he finds his identity in the sport from the social relationships *and* the competence. At most tournaments we see our son for 5 minutes at each event and then he is gone. On the golf cart with his friends, riding bikes with his friends or whatever else catches his eye.

    Teens are driven by their social relationships - so making skiing social is extremely important to prevent the "tumble," at least in my opinion. Camps, social events all are an important part of retention for teen athletes. Heck, even inviting his non-competitor friends to ski or wakeboard or surf with us helps prevent burnout and loss from the sport, but I have no idea how to do this on a wider level. Make some rec pulls at smaller tournaments for a chance to wakeboard or ski on two skis? Something to bring out the non-competitive friends and keep teens social, perhaps? I truly believe we need to find a way to draw more teens to tournaments to make them as social as they are competitive.

    As my wife often says - we can't keep thinking that what worked when we were kids 30-50 years ago is going to work today. The days of "because I said so..." are long past.
  • 6_Buoys6_Buoys Posts: 38 Baller
    My kids are one year apart and both started skiing around 5. She's now skiing D1 and he rides a ski about once a summer for the last 10 years. She loved the tournaments when she was younger but in the past 2 summers, skipped a couple when she learned non of her "skiing" friends were signed up. Although she still practices as much or more than she used to. He had to play teams sports and was a 3 sport athlete in HS. Two kids, same parents, same setting, same opportunities, two different paths. Both athletes and I couldn't be happier for them both. I do agree with @Bruce_Butterfield, we ask these kids to pick one sport way to early. However, by 16 years old they know which one they want to focus on and that is a life decision. You can't do it all.
  • S1PittsS1Pitts Posts: 261 Solid Baller
    Similar story - 2 kids who started watersports at a young age - took part in slalom, tricks, wake boarding, barefooting but neither was interested in it beyond a rec level. By late teens other interests took them off the water but now at ages 34 and 30 they hit the water every chance they get. Maybe that's the way it will play out now- Plant the seed and when they are older they will return.
  • ralral Posts: 1,811 Mega Baller
    edited December 2020
    Compared to its income, population and performance in other sports, waterski is an overachieving sport in Chile, especially at the teenager level, with many kids ranked at the top in the U14-U17 categories.

    Main reason of the interest is the social aspect, where kids are happy to spend all day at the lakes during tournaments gathering with the rest of the kids.
    Rodrigo Andai
  • JoepruncJoeprunc Posts: 308 Baller
    Interesting topic....

    I was one of those kids many moons ago. I quit playing varsity baseball as a senior, I was bored (right field is a boring position), tired of playing ball year round, and wanted to do other activities.

    I have a close ski buddy, his teenagers have little to no interest in skiing anymore.
  • jcampjcamp Posts: 929 Mega Baller
    "Travel teams are the devil!"

    - Says this father who has kids in four of them, knows they suck, but still feels like he "has to" so his kids don't get "left behind" their peers.
  • jcampjcamp Posts: 929 Mega Baller
    Any time someone says "kids these days are lazy" they should be directed to the comment from @Timr71 above.
  • NikolGNikolG Posts: 106 Baller
    Teenage tumble...I would say the iPhone is a huge part of the issue. Apps, gaming, social media fills that void of camaraderie and competitiveness of sports. It's a false reality but kids take refuge in it and its easy. 24-7 its right there :(
  • unksskisunksskis Posts: 552 Crazy Baller
    edited December 2020
    I remember the day my mom made me choose baseball or skiing.

    An old girlfriend backed out on a full ride D1 soccer scholarship because she had accomplished her goal of earning that scholarship, but had no desire to continue playing, she wanted to enjoy college.

    Pro athletes still tend to be multi-sport athletes, because they are athletes.

    Side topic, I would just like to point out along with this discussion, is that because of the seriousness put on these other sports, skiing loses a lot of young skiers simply due to our scheduling. Fall sports start by August, and you have to be there to make the team and show commitment, as shown in some of these examples. Tournament skiing loses more than just a handful of young competitors because we are stuck in our old scheduling ways. For society, August means summer is over, it's on to school and Fall sports. That's not including that these other sports are already going year round. If we want to retain younger skiers, we can't make them choose skiing over these sports.
  • IlivetoskiIlivetoski Posts: 1,190 Crazy Baller
    edited December 2020
    My thoughts as someone who is 26 and has tried to get every single one of his friends hooked on skiing and why it has mostly failed.

    1- Instant gratification. Its hard to be a good slalom skier. You simply cannot be athletic and be a good skier. As everyone here knows its a technical sport and just being big and fast doesn't help. The best skiers are the ones who spend the most time training.

    2- Price. I will go to my grave saying this. Its too damn expensive. If I want to start any other sport the barrier to entry is less than $1000 to start unless you start messing with horses. If I want a friend to start skiing I can point them to SIA, they can use my boat and I won't even charge for gas most of the time. Still a used ski, bindings, vest, handle, gloves will run them damn near if not more than $1000. Even people I skied with in college for 2 years were hesitant to spend the money on their own equipment, understandably so.

    3- All of our friends have surf boats. We go with them see something that is super simple (i.e. instant gratification) and you can drink while your doing it. The number of times I've seen or been thrown a beer while surfing.... Cant do that in a slalom course.

    4- For people who don't get it, watching a good skier is not as impressive as they realize. I took a friend to the lake this summer. He watched me get a couple at 32 off 36 mph straight up. Nothing amazing but not terrible. We were with some friends the other day and he told me if I gave him 1 summer he would be able to beat that. A short, should we call it a debate, followed. I explained it takes years to be able to run even into 32 off. He didn't believe me, still thinks 1 summer is all he needs. He isn't a skier. I remember listening to the 2008 worlds video cast and Marcus Brown made a point when Rossi was skiing. He said "the better the skier the less impressive it is to watch because they make it look easy" I 100% believe that and sadly the spray can be the coolest part someone sees.
  • DyscoDysco Posts: 47 Baller
    Someone somewhere came up with the theory that most people, including kids, have about 8 years worth of "competitive interest" in a particular sport or activity.
    I find that fairly accurate. When as a high school and collegiate wrestling coach when they should get their kids started in the sport, I ask them "what age do you want them to quit participating in it? Then subtract 8 years, that's the starting age." Most parents never fathom their kids quitting until I ask that question. Many ignore it and start their kid in kindergarten. I can say with 80 percent accuracy that I will never have that kid in high school.

  • lpskierlpskier Posts: 3,080 ★★★Triple Panda Award Recipient ★★★
    @Live2ski I agree. There is a lot of deferred satisfaction slalom. But someone who can ski reasonably well on one ski, not even running the course, can ski out their very first jump. I think we lose kids (among other reasons) because jumps are no longer found on public water.

    @Dysco the 8 year theory applies to a lot of sports, but there are school age sports that most people don’t do after college, like football and wrestling, and there are lifetime sports, like golf and tennis. Waterskiing is a lifetime sport, even though a lot of kids drop out in their 20’s. A lot of those drop outs come back in their 30’s and become the backbone of the sport.

    John Wilkins- Si non pro sanguine quem ludus ne. #iskiconnelly
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