Think about this the next time you’re up at 6 A.M. on a weekend to drive your child to sports practice. Just two to three hours a week of sports participation boosts cardiovascular conditioning, not to mention the social and emotional benefits of being part of a team. Yet, there’s a huge drop in organized sports participation. What’s causing it, and how can parents keep kids in the game?
The fields at a Washington D.C. rec center are packed well into the evening with organized travel teams logging practice time. For these athletes it’s a commitment beyond their middle school soccer teams.
But participation in organized sports of all kinds is on the decline. It has been estimated that as much as 70 percent of all participants quit by their teens. George Washington University sports scientist Amanda Visek, PhD, and her colleagues recruited nearly 250 players, parents, and coaches from a D.C. soccer league to define, or map fun. They started first by asking the study participants to brainstorm all of the things that make sports fun. The list was long.
“Who would have thought that fun, this three-letter word, could mean 81 specific things?” Visek told Ivanhoe.
Participants then organized the 81 factors into eleven categories and rated the importance of each determining the top three. Trying hard was number one, followed by positive team dynamics, and positive coaching.
Visek detailed how a how a coach could be positive by asking, “Are they a positive role model? Is she or he encouraging?”
Visek said parents play a vital role too. She says keep it positive, offer encouragement and support. Keep the focus on what kids are learning and ask what was most rewarding. Making fun the goal and helping keep kids in the game.
In case you were curious, the sports scientists say winning was one of the 81 factors that participants named, but it was not anywhere near the top of the list. In fact, winning came in as sports “fun factor” number 41.