Donald Watts Seeks to Improve Youth Sports


A recent Washington Post story raises the alarm about the decline of youth sports. The story highlights a study from the Sports & Fitness Industry Association and Aspen Institute that says increasing costs, sport specialization, and improperly trained coaches are all big contributors to the decline.

According to the study, almost 45 percent of children ages 6 to 12 played a team sport in 2008. But now that mark is at 37 percent.

Love the Game

“One of the big problems with youth sports is that it is now a means to achieve an end. It should be an activity that kids can participate in and enjoy,” said Coach Donald Watts. Coaches often prioritize the best talent and kids lose the pure joy they are supposed to have in the game. So, we need to give our kids a chance to solidify a love for the game before they feel a pressure to treat it like a job.”

This line of thinking fits with the study’s outlook on youth sports. It cites an “up or out” perspective—elite teams take only the best, most promising athletes, leaving the majority behind. Those remaining feel discouraged and that sports just aren’t for them.

Stay Engaged

Coach Watts encourages parents to stay engaged and be mindful of not being too forceful with their kids, especially in youth sports. “I’m pretty unique in this situation—my dad played in the NBA. So, the number one question I used to get was ‘how do you deal with the stress of expectations?’ I always weirded out by that question. When I was growing up, even though my dad was in the NBA, basketball wasn’t his primary objective for me. I never felt forced to be into the game. Therefore, it wasn’t until later that I showed real love and desire for the game that he was all in on supporting my desire to be a better player.”


What Youth Sports Coaches Need to Do

Coaching is another contributing factor to the decline of youth sports. For example, the study indicates that almost 30 percent of youth sports coaches lack proper training in safety and injury prevention. In addition, Coach Watts believes that poor coaching often comes because many coaches don’t understand the developmental needs of children. “We need to be mindful of those needs as coaches. Most importantly, the opportunity to teach positive habits is more vital than how you run a play or the final score of the game.”


Join Us at Watts Basketball

Watts Basketball offers many programs for youth of all ages. If you’re looking for a safe place for your kids to celebrate all efforts, learn from their mistakes, and achieve real accomplishments, sign up for our special Holiday Hoops Camp (plus, it’s not too early to register for our MLK Day camps, too), or check out one of our regular age group classes!

Holiday Hoops
Featuring Supersonics legend Slick Watts and his son, former Husky star Donald Watts, Watts Holiday Hoop camps are the perfect way to make this holidays season truly unforgettable for the young athlete in your life. But camps are filling up fast. Don’t miss out, sign up now!

Lil Dribblers
Ignite a passion for basketball in your youngest athletes! Specially developed for kids in grades K–3, Lil Dribblers focuses on basic fundamentals and the joy of being active. Sessions are nearly full but we have a few spots available. Click to sign up!

Future Stars
Built for athletes in grades 4–6, Future Stars teaches shooting techniques and strategies on how to outsmart opponents. In addition, these classes help explore new basketball skills with creative games and competitions. Click to sign up!

All Stars
The All Stars program is designed specifically for middle school players grades 6–8 and is the best way to get the experience and individualized skills work they need in order to perform their best during the season and for years to come. Attendees learn highly competitive basketball skills, high-level teamwork, and successful shooting techniques. Click to sign up!

Private Training
Are you looking for more personalized attention for the youth basketball player in your family? Then check out Watts Basketball’s private, semi-private and small-group training at our SoDo gym and the Washington Athletic Club. Learn more details here!



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