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Mom Expresses Concern That Kids Have To Start Playing Sports At Age 4 If They Want Any Chance At Being On A Team When They’re Older

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Young kids playing soccer together on a field.

Recreational sports, either sponsored by the community or school district, are a popular way for children to experience being part of a team while bonding with their peers. 

However, many parents — including a mom named Alli on TikTok — noticed that this once accessible pastime has become not only financially inaccessible for many parents, but the sports culture has also shifted, and team spots are only available to children who’ve dedicated loads of time, practice, and money into their one niche sport from a very young age. 

This mom was outraged that fun ‘rec sports’ have been replaced by ultra-competitive teams.

“I played soccer my whole life. I sucked at it,” Alli admitted in a recent TikTok. “I was good enough if people were injured … but I loved soccer. I loved my friends on the team. School is not where you make your true friends anymore.” 

   

   

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For many kids, sports are essential in fostering friendships and connections. When financial, social, or behavioral barriers keep kids from accessing these teams and leagues it sets some kids behind their peers in terms of social acclimation.

This mom, thanks to her own experience as a kid, was adamant that traditional “rec sports” that are not only financially accessible, but that foster fun instead of competition, become a priority again.

“I’m not saying participation trophies or anything like that,” Alli admitted. “This is about having the ability to play on a team … it builds so much character. You learn how to treat other people, respect others, and how to listen to other adults besides teachers and parents.” 

With ‘rec sports’ becoming more and more inaccessible, kids are losing out on the opportunity to play a sport if they’re not ‘naturally gifted’ or on a ‘travel team.’

Not only are recreational sports becoming more inaccessible financially, but they also require huge time requirements than previous traditional recreational leagues. Meaning working parents and travel restrictions are likely to weed out lower-income kids from participating. 

“There’s sort of this haves versus have-nots, depending on how much money you have,” youth sports researcher Jon Solomon revealed in an interview with WBUR. “We have research that shows that kids who are from lower-income households are far more likely to not be playing sports on a regular basis compared to higher-income households.” 

   

   

Even for children whose parents can afford the new league prices, which average between $100 and $500 per season, the barrier of entry based on skill and talent is higher than ever. Not only does this require kids to start practicing at younger ages, but it also takes away a great deal of the stress-free fun and replaces it with pressure. 

As this mom pointed out, these added expectations and pressures often lead to burnout early on. 

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Traditional ‘rec sports’ allow kids to make friends and play multiple sports without overwhelming pressure. 

While there’s been a multitude of studies showing the incredible benefits of playing a sport, working out, and playing on a team for young children, the reality is that not everyone has the opportunity to

   

   

In the past, kids had the option of playing more than one sport and even trying different positions in their favorite sport. But sadly, that's no longer the case and has resulted in specialized training that increases the number of injuries in young athletes.  

Despite this, sports specialization for kids as young as five years old has become popular, leaving families to invest years of time, money, and effort in forced dreams of playing at a high level. 

   

   

“Over the past, say, 30 years, we’ve had a defunding of sports within our community and school systems,” Dr. Kirsen Hextrum of the University of Oklahoma explained to WBUR. “A Parallel occurrence has happened alongside that, which is: We’ve had an increase of private sports clubs popping up to replace what once was done by low-cost, recreational or school sports.” 

So, while many of us might’ve used “rec teams” to goof off, try new sports, and meet friends, the reality today is much different. Many parents, including this TikTok mom, are ready to re-introduce the fun into kids' sports.

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Zayda Slabbekoorn is a news and entertainment writer at YourTango focusing on pop culture and human interest stories.