'Don't Retire, Kid': ESPN, Aspen Institute aim to increase youth sports participation

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'Don't Retire, Kid': ESPN, Aspen Institute aim to increase youth sports participation

Youth Sports

'Don't Retire, Kid': ESPN, Aspen Institute aim to increase youth sports participation


On Sunday morning, SportsCenter aired a video of a kid retiring from sports.

The child actor, reading from a piece of paper, said he was done dealing with the pressures placed on someone his age. He was done having fun.

He was done.

This “retirement” served as a PSA about the decrease in youth participation and the beginning of a campaign from ESPN and the Aspen Institute to encourage kids to stay in the game.

“Don’t Retire, Kid” aims to push boys and girls to continue competing, not just for on-court reasons, but how it can help other aspects of life. Professional stars including Kobe Bryant, Wayne Gretzky and Sue Bird were involved and filmed short videos explaining why sports are important and why participation rates are decreasing.

From 2008 to 2018, the amount of kids aged 6 to 12 who played sports decreased from 45% to 38%, according to an Aspen Institute news release that cited the Sports & Fitness Industry Association.

Kids from lower-income families are less likely to participate than those with more money, According to the Aspen Institute. Costs to play — particularly associated with travel — limit the opportunity for many.

The lack of participation is exacerbated in girls, who stop playing at twice the rate as boys, according to an ESPN press release that cited the Women’s Sports Foundation.

Bryant gave advice on how played when parks weren’t available nearby. Sloane Stephens spoke about how playing tennis helps her get off the couch, meet new people and travel the world. Mookie Betts spoke about how playing multiple sports helped him become a better baseball player.

Following the PSA, Bryant appeared on ESPN for an interview with more advice, including how coaches can help.

With the World Health Organization reporting 31% of people aged 15 and older were “insufficiently active,” ESPN and the Apsen Institute are seeing the lack of sports participation as a growing issue.

“We believe sports should be available to every child,” said ESPN president Jimmy Pitaro. “We want to shed light on this important issue so that kids can take advantage of the benefits of sports, from increased health to better outcomes in school.”


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