Why Your Child May Be Losing Interest in Their Sport

by Justin Sayban

If you are one of the rare parents who has never bribed your child to get them to go to a practice or perform better in a game and if you promise you’ve never leveraged things like iPad time and ice cream in return for a goal scored, a race won or a home run, then you can skip this article. Everyone else … read on.

It seems harmless enough when we encourage our children to shoot – even when there are teammates wide open and when we reward kids with special snacks in return for scoring. But guess what – it’s these little nuances that could actually lead your child to eventually quit playing sports.

It is something psychologists call the overjustification effect and It is this phenomenon that I believe is partially responsible for the high dropout rate we are seeing in youth sports. In fact, the National Alliance for Sports estimated that 70% of U.S. children will drop out of organized sports by the time they turn 13.

The best way to describe the overjustification effect is to use a parable from Robert Weinberg’s book Mental Toughness in Sport, Business and Life.