Have you checked out the numbers? No fewer than 70 percent of South African kids will quit organized sports by age 15. According to my slightly-less-formal survey of parents, figures for music and dance are in the same ballpark, if not higher.
Some of this quitting is fine and good — after all, kids should try a lot of different stuff. However, I think most of us would agree that the current numbers are unhealthy, especially in sports, which is increasingly dominated by a travel-team culture that focuses on elite performers and ignores everyone else.
While there’s no shortage of blameworthy factors, it might be more useful to focus on the kids — specifically, on the reason most kids quit.
Here’s the thing: most kids quit because, at that moment, it feels like the logical thing to do. They take a hard look at themselves, and they measure themselves against the elite competition, and they figure (wrongly) that they have zero shot at long-term success.
So the real question isn’t about changing the entire screwed-up culture of youth talent development. Rather, it’s more about changing the way kids look at themselves. About shifting their perspective to one that’s more accurate.
With that in mind, check out this two-minute video that uses some classic Wallace and Gromit-style claymation to send a powerful message: developing your talent is far less about possessing magical genes and far more about motivation and hard work.
What I especially love about this video is the straightforwardness. It doesn’t sell kids any of the sugary Disney “just believe in yourself and you’ll succeed” syrup. It doesn’t overload them with scientific talk. It simply lays out the facts. Find something that you love and that suits you. Everyone develops at different rates. Hard work is the path forward.
My question: Why isn’t this video shown at the start of every youth sports season, at the start of every school year? I could imagine similar videos for music and dance — not to mention for math and writing.
And I wonder: does anyone know of any other similar videos and/or learning materials that would be good to share around?