In 2015, youth athletes do not practice, they train…Train with a purpose greater than having fun, more important than the excitement of being with their friends, and more influential than being like their professional sport idols…to garner an opportunity for collegiate or professional participation.
Unfortunately, this reality has turned numerous young athletes off to “organized” athletics and more on to other activities in which they have more control. When athletes lose their passion for participation, it will be replaced by a new activity. Often this loss of interest comes from misguided coaches who focus on defining success as winning and losing, as opposed to providing a full effort or improving skill.
Keeping kids within sport programs at key ages when dropping out has become more the norm (between 10 and 14 years old) has to become a focus of youth sport organizations.
Lifetime learning opportunities happen during these ages between coach, athlete, and family members along with some of these obvious and not so obvious benefits as presented at the following website http://www.aspenprojectplay.org/the-facts :
- Regular physical activity benefits participants in helping build and maintain healthy bones, muscles, and joints; helping control weight and reduce fat; and preventing or delaying the development of high blood pressure.
- Childhood sports participation is a significant predictor of young adults’ participation in sports and physical fitness activities.
- Physical activity is associated with improved academic achievement, including grades and standardized test scores.
- High school athletes are more likely than non-athletes to attend college and get degrees; team captains and MVPs achieve in school at even higher rates.
- Significant support exists for the premise that physical activity and sports can positively affect self-esteem, goal-setting, and leadership with the key indicator in this happening as quality of coach.
- Compared to non-athlete peers, female high school athletes are less likely to be sexually active, to use drugs, and to suffer from depression.
How do we keep the kids excited about participation and in organized sport? One answer may be to make the training sessions at younger ages more like the less organized, somewhat chaotic “pick-up” game where the participant has more control of what is happening. On the website Better Soccer More Fun, Dr. Thomas W. Turner, Director of Coaching and Player Development for Ohio Youth Soccer Association North states:
In street soccer cultures, children as young as five can be found playing with their peers and older “friends” in ever-varying configurations of the games. Two or three players are enough to start the days’ play and, on occasion, the numbers may swell to resemble mob scenes…Young children now come into organized soccer at the suggestion or urging of their parents: ironically children repeatedly cite adult pressure as one of their main reasons for quitting organized sport.
Coaches can create activities that are player driven that include action, excitement, and participant leadership for athletes of all ages in all sports. The ability for a coach to encourage participants to explore, take risks, make their own decisions, solve problems, and learn through activity or game participation leads to players developing increased passion in the activity. Creativity is often the byproduct of such training sessions.
Coaches – Can you tweek an activity within your session to allow more exploration and freedom to occur in players making their own decisions, choosing which skill to utilize, or whom to have on their team for that activity and what role they will take. The adjustment of this one activity may lead to increased “unorganization” for the betterment of the participants.
Parents – When you are observing your child “practice” or play a game; are they having fun, learning, receiving leadership roles, developing passion, making their own decisions, and gaining an overall confidence within the chosen sport? If not, it may be time to approach the coach about creating practice games and activities in which the players have increased ownership and more fun. Creative coaches who plan sessions are able to do this for any age participant.
Athletes – Let your coaches and parents know which type of activities you like, how they make you a better player, and why they are your favorite. This will lead your coach to creating more activities similar to what you thoroughly enjoy.
Empowering athletes, families, coaches, and organizations to create opportunities for lifetime success,
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The Aspen Institute Project Play: Reimagining Youth Sports in America. (2015). Facts: Sports Activity and Children. Retrieved from http://www.aspenprojectplay.org/the-facts
Better Soccer More Fun: Inspired by the Dutch Vision. (2008). Deconstructing Youth Soccer. Retrieved from http://www.bettersoccermorefun.com/dwtext/ttdecons.htm