How to Keep the Fun in Youth Sports

It was always the last thing my mother and father would say to me before dropping me off at soccer practice or any athletic endeavor I tried when I was a kid. They would say, sometimes shout as I sprinted towards the field, “Do well, and have fun!” It seems like such a simple concept when it comes to youth athletics. I mean, that alone should be the reason why kids are out there playing sports with their friends and getting in exercise as well. But fun seems to be finding its way out of youth sports, at least according to a study done by the Milken Institute School of Public Health at George Washington University in Washington, D.C.

Researchers polled 230 kids, from ages 9 to 19, coaches and parents about what made sports fun, and the findings were published in the Journal of Physical Activity & Health and also covered in an article in USA Today. The study suggests that winning and getting medals aren’t the top factors as to why kids participate in sports, but getting “swag”, participating with good sportsmanship and having positive coaching top the list. According to the study, 70 percent of young athletes are quitting by the time they reach middle school. That number is alarming, because when kids don’t play sports or get out and be active they tend to do things that are unhealthy, which in turn leads to childhood obesity. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one-third of children and adolescents are considered overweight or obese in this country. A 2009 National Survey of Children’s Health, found at Kids Play USA Foundation, showed that “non-athletes are 60 percent more likely to be overweight than athletes.” It’s like a giant chain reaction. “If our goal is to keep kids as physically active for as long as possible, we’re looking at organized sport as this solution to a public health crisis,” said Amanda Visek, author of the study and an associate professor of exercise science at George Washington University. So the obvious question is how do we keep kids engaged in sports so unhealthy patterns don’t creep in? The goal isn’t to overburden kids or force them into doing something that they don’t want to do. But youth sports are the key to staying healthy, and finding good coaching is a major part of that. It’s part of why the study asked coaches what makes sports fun. Getting positive reactions and having a positive mentor in any athlete’s training is a step in the right direction. Multiply that when we speak about keeping up a young person’s confidence level. When private coaches and athletes work 1-on-1 together, the relationship grows in a positive way, through teaching of the fundamentals. One-on-one coaching by a true professional isn’t about having a drill sergeant tell you what to eat, where to workout and how to live every second of the day. A private coach can work with you to get the most out of a workout in order to help you get better at a sport and to boost confidence in that area. A good coach boosts confidence in every aspect of life and challenges a young person to try different things. Speaking for CoachUp, our coaches want their pupils to be the most well-rounded people and athletes they can be. That aforementioned chain reaction moves in a different way from not playing sports to playing video games, to being inactive, to childhood obesity.  However, from positive tutelage and improving in a sport, a child begins to develop habits of healthy living and that reaction stops. It is a different spectrum and most importantly it gets the “fun” back in the game.

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