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To enhance youth sports experiences, BYU educators develop the Strong Youth Project



Provo, Utah – In Utah, springtime means not just nicer temperatures but also more family-friendly baseball and soccer activities.

It is often known that youth sports are important for both mental and physical development. They can aid in instilling in kids the value of cooperation and boosting their self-esteem.

Through the recently established Strong Youth Project, a group of professors from Brigham Young University are addressing difficulties that young athletes face today. In addition to preventing burnout and injuries, the objective is to favorably influence kids’, parents’, and coaches’ experiences.

Matt Seely is a BYU professor of science and exercise who also co-founded the Strong Youth Project.

He mentioned how much has changed since he was a young athlete while visiting the ARC Salt Lake hosts. His son is a soccer player these days.

“The scientific data is very clear: when you participate in a sport year-round, your risk of musculoskeletal injury increases, as does your risk of psychological burnout, and you’re more likely, not surprisingly, to drop out of the sport altogether,” Seely said.

According to Seely, children do sports mainly for two reasons: to have fun and hang out with their pals.

“When kids aren’t having fun, they’re less likely to stay in sports,” Seely said.

The Strong Youth Project reports that 70% of children give up athletics by the time they are thirteen. Less than one child out of every 100 will go on to participate in university sports. Seely estimated that one in 100 of those collegiate athletes will sign a deal with a professional team.

“If that’s your endgame, then I think it’s unwise,” Seely said. “The endgame should be physical fitness, mental wellness, resilience, intrapersonal skills, teamwork, learning to overcome failures.”

Seely reported that their youth conference covered a wide range of subjects, including psychology, body image, self-esteem, nutrition, and more. In an effort to lessen the risk factors that contribute to high school sports injuries, they are currently working with Intermountain Health on a research study to attempt and identify those risks more precisely.

“This is a really big, complex cultural problem,” Seely said. “It’s going to take some time.”


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