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The Death of Rec Sports

Are rec sports dying? In the wake of kids being over-scheduled and playing more than one sport in a season, there has been a drop in rec sports. Recreational sports once acted as the entry point for kids to learn a specific sport.

Rec sports are where my kids learned how to play everything from soccer to rugby to field hockey. My heart is always in rec sports because of the great lessons you learn. They are accessible to everyone and usually come at a low cost. As a parent and coach, I was able to connect with my own kids by coaching them in their youth.

With a minimal cost and everyone being able to join regardless of level, they have been a staple in communities across the country. Recreational sports check off two boxes: accessibility and inclusivity.

Why do we love recreational sports? 

Youth sports are important to communities. They foster a love of the game and a sense of belonging. Sports provide so many opportunities and life lessons from being able to be a good teammate, having a high work ethic, and having a good attitude. Children understand how to win but also how to lose. 

Rec Sports Are Accessible

Recreational sports are open to all players at all levels. That’s the beauty, you can just sign up and play. My earliest days playing softball was in our town rec league. I ended up playing all through high school and almost in college. With rec sports being local, families don’t have to travel, they can stay close to home and play.

Low Cost to Play

Families can participate in rec sports at a lower cost. This is a huge factor. When kids are playing sports, they have less time to do other things that may not be positive. Communities that offer rec sports at a cost that is affordable in a safe environment are doing more than just creating a love of the game, they are creating community. 


Bring back the days when we played sports for fun. Rec sports are fun, read that again. They are manned by volunteers, usually have ice cream visits after games and are all about learning. Sometimes I feel we get away from the fun side of sports. Rec sports foster community and fun.

What is driving the death of organized rec sports?

Early Sports Specialization

With club sports being year-round, they are pushing more kids to specialize earlier and earlier. Parents are feeling this pressure.

As a parent, I felt this pressure to put my son in club soccer, it was one of the worst decisions we made. He hated it and was burned out. I often tell parents to wait until their kids get older to play sports. Kids should play and try many sports. It is better for their overall long-term development.

Overscheduled Families

With the increase in club sports, youth sports athletes have to choose between one sport or the other. Some families are adding club sports to their schedule along with rec sports and other sports. This is causing stress and burnout to players who are overscheduled. Eventually, these families choose which programs fit their children’s needs. 

Players are being pulled in 3 different directions when playing multiple sports in a season. This is resulting in a lack of attendance and teams going without players. It creates a frustrating experience for the family, that player, their teammates on other teams, and clubs/organizations that need to scramble to fill a spot.  

Lack of Volunteers and Space

Space is a huge issue in many communities. You may have the players and coaches, but where do you play? When you don’t have one of these, it has a ripple effect on whether or not you can run a rec sports program. 

As more and more coaches are pressured by parents, more and more coaches quit. It is an issue that has impacted umpires across many sports. It just isn’t worth it, and when it comes to volunteering, coaches just don’t want to give back if they are yelled out regularly.

Future Downside

There is a high value in having rec sports across communities. From fostering teamwork and sportsmanship to promoting physical fitness and mental well-being, recreational sports enrich our lives in countless ways.

In the face of this loss, we must strive to find new ways to promote active living and community engagement. Whether through grassroots initiatives, public policy measures, or innovative technologies, we can work together to revitalize the spirit of recreational sports and ensure that future generations have the opportunity to experience the joy of physical play. Though the landscape may have changed, the fundamental human need for connection, competition, and camaraderie remains as strong as ever. As we bid farewell to recreational sports, let us also embrace the opportunity to forge new traditions and create lasting memories that celebrate the power of play.

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About the author: 

Amy Masters is a sports mom, coach, and club administrator. She has been coaching youth sports for more than 10 years. She started Jr Lions Field Hockey, the youth recreation program for the Hunterdon County community, growing it from 40 players in year 1 to 150 players by year 3. A few years later, she saw the love and competitiveness grow, then started Omega Field Hockey Club serving NJ and PA players. Before coaching, she was a collegiate field hockey player for Lock Haven University. In her spare time (lol), she is head of marketing for iSport360 and the co-editor of the Youth Sports Survival Guide. The Youth Sports Survival Guide is the largest youth sports newsletter in the world.

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May 29, 2024

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