Rec Officials Try to Make Sports More Appealing to Kids

Rec Officials Try to Make Sports More Appealing to Kids

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Sammy Linebaugh ReportingHow many steps does the average child take each day? Believe it or not, somebody's done a study about it and found American kids are decidedly sedentary compared with children from other countries.

Here locally youth recreation officials are trying to reverse the trend by selling sports to kids a little differently.

For the guy who scores the goal or makes the winning save, what could be more fun than a soccer game? But what about those who aren't standouts?

Dr. Gary Ellis, who chairs the department of recreation at the University of Utah, says community sports programs aren't doing enough to keep them interested in exercise.

Gary Ellis, U of U Dept. of Parks, Recreation and Tourism: "I believe many of my colleagues could do a much better job of designing experiences that help connect youth to physical activity."

Too many kids, says Ellis, are getting out of sports early on because of a bad experience. Maybe a coach didn't play them, maybe their team consistently lost, all it takes in some cases, is that single slight.

Gary Ellis: "They learn helplessness. They learn I cannot do this; I am no good at this. I'm going to find some other way to spend my time."

April Watt, Coppertion Community Center: “There's definitely a higher interest in hooking up to the Internet than grabbing a basketball and going out and playing."

April Watt runs the youth rec leagues at Copperton Community Center and has teamed up with Ellis to try re-sell sports by revamping the way youth programs are organized.

April Watt: "If any team comes in together, they automatically have to move up a grade level, so if it's a 5th grade team that comes in all together, we move them and they have to play in 6th grade.”

That's to combat the so-called stacking problem where a coach will sign up for a league with a team already put together -- a distinct advantage over newly formed squads made up of kids of ranging abilities.

April Watt: "That's where we get our uneven scores, the 60 to 2 score and stuff like that and that's where we're losing the kids, because they don't want to lose all the time that big."

Other proposed changes target sportsmanship among players, coaches and parents with the overall goal to get more of Utah's kids flipping over exercise.

The latest research finds 72 percent of Utahns overall -- including kids and adults -- are at risk of health problems due to physical inactivity.

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