With the emergence of smart phones, social media, the internet and video games, childhood inactivity and obesity have become national epidemics. Less than one-third of middle and high school students take part in interscholastic athletics, and participation in intramural athletics is even lower. Beyond physical and mental health issues caused by inactivity, youths who are not enrolled in after-school programs are 50% more likely to experiment with drugs and alcohol, according to the Afterschool Alliance, a national non-profit organization.

Trends in today’s youth sports world, which used to serve as a healthy outlet for children, are equally disturbing. A 2014 George Washington University study found that 70% of children are dropping out of organized athletics by the age of 13, with the #1 reason that sports was no longer fun. According to the study, “Today, adult led competition dominates. Tryout-based, multi-season regional travel teams form as early as age 6, siphoning players and support from community based recreational leagues striving to serve all kids. Nation-wide, the trend is to prioritize performance over participation well before kids’ bodies, minds, and interests mature. The risks for the children are unnecessary and harmful stress, overuse injuries, and burnout.”

The effects of these trends, and other pressures faced by our youth are evident in the 2014 MetroWest Adolescent Health Survey. The survey is administered every other year to middle and high school students in our MetroWest region. Of particular concern are the historical and age based trends as demonstrated on the following page.