Chris Branscome is adamant. The biggest reason kids have stopped playing youth soccer in our region is that it just isn’t fun. Imagine that, the chance to go outside and run around, hang with friends, kick a ball in the fresh air and perhaps develop a lifelong desire to remain fit doesn’t bring enjoyment anymore. “In almost every survey that’s done, the lead reference just about every time is that it’s not fun,” says Branscome, CEO of Eastern Pennsylvania Youth Soccer. “Kids say they don’t like the yelling they hear or the pressure they get from parents and even coaches.”
Branscome notes that there are about 122,000 children participating in youth soccer programs in the eastern half of the state, down from 130,000 a decade ago and 150,000 some 15-20 years prior to that. The national numbers on sports participation aren’t any more encouraging. A 2019 survey conducted by Utah State University and the Aspen Institute in Washington, D.C., revealed that kids play only three years of sports, on average. Many quit by age 11. In 2018, only 38 percent of kids ages 6-12 played team sports on a regular basis, down from 45 percent 10 years earlier.