The positive benefit sport can provide kids is highly dependent on one thing: continued involvement.
If a child drops out, which evidence suggests is happening at alarming rates, all potential value is lost.
And so ensuring all young people who play sport receive a quality experience, a key tenet of the stand leading New Zealand sports organisations took yesterday to improve youth sport, is critical.
But what exactly does a quality experience look like?
Easy right? Make it fun.
Sure. Sounds great.
The problem is, when you ask kids to describe what make playing sports fun, their responses vary. A lot.
To my point, when Amanda Visek and her colleagues asked 142 youth soccer players this exact question, they came up with 81 different answers.
The cool thing was, however, that Visek was able to group the fun-determinants, generating more understanding and consensus about the multidimensionality of fun.
The study showed 11 fun-dimensions. In order of importance, they were:
- Positive team dynamics e.g., playing well as a team and being supported by teammates;
- Trying hard e.g., trying your best, exercising and being active;
- Positive coaching e.g., being treated with respect and provided with encouragement from someone who knows a lot about the sport;
- Learning and improving e.g., being challenged to improve and get better;
- Game time support e.g., parents who show good sportsmanship and a ref who makes consistent calls;
- Games e.g., getting playing time and against an evenly matched team;
- Practices e.g., having well-organised practices and the freedom to play creatively;
- Team friendships e.g., getting along with teammates and being around friends;
- Mental bonuses e.g., keeping a positive attitude and winning;
- Team rituals e.g., high-fiving, fist-bumping and hugging;
- Swag e.g., having nice gear and travelling to new places to stay.
Creating a positive experience in sport is not simple. There’s much more to it that just having ‘fun’ with your mates.
The intent in yesterday’s messages from the people behind youth sport in New Zealand is great.
Now the hard work begins.