'Like a religion': Is your kid burnt out from the pressure to play sports?

    Miles Garrett (WGXA)

    MACON, Ga. -- The Middle Georgia community takes sports seriously, but sometimes the game can take a toll on kids.

    A study by the National Alliance of Youth Sports showed that around 70 percent of kids in America stop playing sports by age 13 because it isn't fun anymore.

    "Here in Georgia, Texas, and Florida, and California, football is like a religion. So we have make sure we kinda draw a fine line to let people know that it's still just a game," said coach Spoon Risper.

    Risper knows how big football is down south, but he also knows the toll it can take on kids if the pressure becomes too great.

    Maya Castro is an author from California who has first-hand experience of athlete burnout. She's written a book about her suggestions to improve youth sports, and said it starts with the parents and coaches.

    "Just kind of encouraging parents and coaches that the whole point of youth sports is to help kids grow as people. You're not trying to make them pro athletes, which not even a percent of kids become pro athletes," said Castro.

    At Westside High School, coach Risper has seen many kids come through his program, but there's one frequent problem he sees with parents of his athletes.

    "Don't try to live your dream through your kids. Let your kids enjoy sports, don't burn them out, don't make em work out 24, seven when they're little," he said.

    Sports are meant to be fun, but too much of it, along with outside pressures can make it the opposite.

    "Focus on the learning aspect of the game. Focus on helping your kids understand there's a correlation between success as an athlete and success as a person, because even if they don't go pro or even if they don't become an Olympic athlete or collegiate athlete, they can take what they've learned from sports and put it into their school work. And that's what I've done," Castro said.

    When the burden becomes too much, Risper has a suggestion for parents and coaches to get kids to love their sport once again.

    "Make them miss the game, when they miss the game, that makes the kids want to come and play the game. It creates a hunger that makes them want to play the game," he said.

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