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Study suggests how to get kids to play more

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH ) – How to get kids to play more. That’s what a new study is looking into with help from hundreds of businesses and organizations, including the American College of Sports Medicine, based in Indianapolis.

The report said there are two million fewer kids playing sports now than there were five years ago. The effort to find out why and how to reverse that is called Project Play and it’s led by the Aspen Institute. Those involved looked at several factors including making youth sports safer, all-inclusive, and more enjoyable. They focused on kids ages 6-12.

The report says sports leagues for kids shouldn’t feel like a mini-NFL or NBA. Before age 12, children shouldn’t be cut from teams and should get equal playing time. The recommendations come after talking with kids about what they want from sports.

Ranking in the top five things they found the most fun were getting playing time, getting along with your teammates, and trying your best. Winning wasn’t a priority to kids. On average, they ranked winning 48th out of the 81 items listed.

“Often you find adults, parents, who are really driving to win – you can see that sometimes on the sidelines or as fans – and really what kids are about a lot of times is really just the experience of it. Socializing with their friends and doing things that define success,” Jim Whitehead, CEO of the American College of Sports Medicine, said.

The Project Play report also suggests introducing more free play. Recess style fun when kids, not adults, make up their own games and activities.

Researchers found if kids sports and play were more enjoyable and inclusive, it would decrease obesity among American children and get more disabled, low-income, and even late-bloomers involved in sports.

The report also said active kids score higher on academic tests, are more likely to go to college, and are less likely to smoke and take illegal drugs.

You can get your own copy of the full report by visiting the Project Play web site.