If you coach junior sports, you’ll no doubt be familiar with kids quitting their sport. It is far too prevalent and has been for far too long. For the past 30 years, the numbers haven’t changed. That is, 70% of children quit their sport by the age of 13 and never play it ever again. Based on those numbers, clearly, we are doing something wrong.
A while back, I read a great quote from Mark Hyman from George Washington University relating to this topic that struck a chord with me.
“If 70% of Walmart’s customers walked out of the store and said, ‘This is not for me. I’m not coming back,’ the status quo would not stand. Walmart would figure out a different business model but in youth sports, we seem to be very satisfied with a 70% dropout rate.”Mark Hyman
The question that stems from this is, are you satisfied with a 70% dropout rate, or do you want to do something different and make a change?
Making a change
When making changes in any aspect of life, ie sport, business, etc, we must first understand the problem; understand the underlying causes creating the problem; and finally, understand our eventual goal.
In this case, our goal is simple, fuel our kids’ love for sport and keep them involved for longer. Thankfully, you or I do not need to discover the underlying problem nor the causes. Amazing people with much wiser heads have already done that for us.
The problem and causes
The problem is simple. Kids are quitting their sports at an early age and not coming back to try it again. The causes behind this are varied, but the major factor is kids are not having fun, or at least it isn’t as fun as other things they’d rather be doing.
“The #1 determinant for kids dropping out of sports is not having fun.”Amanda Visek
Now, we have a choice. We either accept that there are better things for kids to do than play our sport, or we accept that the environments we coaches are creating are not conducive for kids’ enjoyment.
Of course, everything we do is aimed at creating a fun environment. Enough sporting organisations and clubs are now prioritising this. But, the problem that still exists is many coaches don’t know how to create a fun environment for kids. Through a lack of education, most coaches create an environment that they think is fun. Unfortunately, what we adults consider fun is vastly different from that of kids.
Fuelling Kids’ Love of Sport
Through research, theory, and applied strategies, psychologists have created three areas of focus for coaches that spell out what they must focus on to create a fun and enjoyable environment for kids. These are a focus on;
- Support and respect, and
- What constitutes “fun” for kids.
At the bottom of this article, there is a button that links to an article by Tori DeAngelis that discusses these three areas of focus in detail. I highly recommend reading this article. However, to give you a quick summary of what each focus area consists of, see below.
A Focus on Effort
- Coaches should focus on the effort and dedication of their athletes, not the results of their effort, ie winning or losing.
- When athletes make mistakes, praise what went right, and offer positive coaching on what went wrong.
- Allow kids to make their own rules, so they are more likely to abide by them.
Focusing on these areas has been proven to improve coach-athlete relationships; lower performance anxiety; and increase fun, mutual respect, self-esteem, team harmony, and self-mastery.
A Focus on Support and Respect
Create a caring culture that is interpersonally inviting; safe and supportive; and creates an environment where kids feel valued and respected.
Coaches that can create this culture are more likely to have athletes that say “they’re committed to their sport”. This is because this culture creates an environment that generates greater empathy for others; more prosocial behaviours; better emotional regulation: more hope and happiness; and less depression and sadness.
A Focus on What Constitutes “FUN” for Kids
Researchers have taken a detailed look at what constitutes “fun” for children when playing sport. From this study, researchers were able to find 81 fun determinants and rank them in order from most to least important. These findings give coaches a concrete blueprint to help their kids get the most enjoyment out of their sport and keep them in it for longer.
To understand exactly what you should be focusing on to make your sport more enjoyable, download this list of the 81 determinants ranked from most important to least. Click here to download.
For more detailed information about each of these focus areas, click the button at the bottom of this article and read Tori’s article. If you can adjust your focus to be more on these three areas, you’ll soon make the change many coaches before you have failed to do and keep kids playing their sport for longer.
Education is the key to improving coaching practices and athlete engagement. That is why Coaches Guild offers affordable and convenient development and support. It is also why we created a detailed online course for junior coaches. ‘Fundamentals of Coaching Junior Sports’ teaches coaches how to maximise player enjoyment, participation, and development. To learn more about this online course, click here.
If you are having problems accessing this link please let us know.
What was your key takeaway from this article?
Do you have any questions on any of the information provided in this article?
Let us know in the comments below.