Best Practice #1 – Fun is Essential
"Researchers have found that anywhere from 30-70% of kids drop out of sports by the time they are 13 years old, and the number one reason why they quit is that they aren't having any fun." This fact from Richard Ginsburg's article below is not surprising, and I would venture to say that kids no longer "have fun" because there is too much pressure -- mostly from their parents. I have watched kids play sports under tremendous pressure -- whether it is parents wanting them to play "their" game or coaches' pressure during the recruiting process -- the kids lose their game. It is sad to watch as their minds win over their talented bodies.
And then it is amazing, just incredible, how well they play after the pressure is off...unconstrained and free. So our job as parents, throughout the sports experience, is to keep the fun in the game so the kids keep playing. And continued play, leads to healthier bodies and minds. So please read the below article by Richard Ginsburg, the first in a series of the "Top 10 Tips For Being a Better Sports Parent."
Having fun while being safe is without question the most important component of any sport experience at any age or level. Whether you are a parent of a young child or a veteran coach, it is absolutely critical that your kids enjoy themselves when they play. The reasons for this are somewhat obvious but important to reinforce. When kids have fun, they are more likely to continue to play. Fostering a love of exercise and athletic involvement has life-long benefits, including improved physical and mental health as well as academic performance. When kids don't have fun, they are less likely to play the next season and may drop out of sports altogether. Researchers have found that anywhere from 30-70% of kids drop out of sports by the time they are 13 years old, and the number one reason why they quit is that they aren't having any fun. Researchers also indicate that kids are less likely to be active as they get older, so while one would logically think that fun is particularly critical for our youth athletes, it is at least equally important that we engage our older athletes.
Fun also has the benefit of helping kids relax and play better. In my role as a sport psychology consultant, one of my major goals is to help young athletes get in touch with their love and enjoyment of playing. When athletes are immersed in the joy of playing, the tension in the bodies and the propensity to over-think everything reduces significantly. In fact, they simply aren't thinking at all when they are having fun. So while we as parents or coaches often feel the pressure to teach new skills or plays to our developing athletes, we are often wise to remember that creating fun and enjoyable practices and game experiences for kids will have huge payoffs for all involved. Simply ask yourself on a daily basis, even if you are a high level coach, "Ok, how I am going to make this fun for all of the kids today." A simple step like this can make all the other objectives with regard to training and performing go so much better. And if the majority of the kids who play for a particular team want to play again next year, then the parents, coaches and all those involved are doing the right things.
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