Keeping Sports Fun

by Andrea D.

Keeping youth active in physical activity is an important part of positive youth development, and the number one intrinsic motivation for participation in sports is fun¹. The goal of this blog post is to discuss some of the research that has been done on what ‘fun’ is for youth and how coaches and parents can foster a fun environment.

Fun is described as something that is enjoyable, entertaining, or amusing; and it is understandable how activities that are enjoyable are activities that we would continue to do. One research article looked at what coaches, youth, and parents thought were fun, and found 81 specific determinants of what made physical activity fun. The 81 determinants are separated into 11 main groups that positively influenced fun, these are: being a good sport, trying hard, positive coaching, learning and improving, game time support, games, practices, team friendships, mental bonuses, team rituals, and lastly swag². These were listed in the order of the importance making things fun, with the most important being a good sport.

Looking more in depth at the first 3 categories, I will discuss more about the research findings about what made soccer fun and what discuss what coaches can do to make physical activity fun.

1. Being a good sport included working well as a team, supporting, and being supported by teammates². Creating an environment like this can be done through teaching effective communication skills, avoiding the development of social cliques by encouraging youth to interact with all the group members, setting group goals as a team, and encouraging the development of pride in the effort of all the group members³. By helping youth develop positive peer relationships we can help them develop assets that help youth grow into caring and healthy adults; in this cased positive peer influence, interpersonal competenceª.

2. Trying hard included: trying your best, working hard, and playing well in a game². We can try to foster this by valuing effort, hard work, goal setting, and skill development. If we reward youth when they show these positive values we can help them develop these positive characteristics.

3. Positive coaching made physical activity fun through: treating players with respect, encouraging the team, clear consistent communication, listening, and taking into consideration what youth are saying². Coaches can provide positive feedback, constructive criticism, asking for the opinions and implementing the suggestions or requests given. All of these can encourage a fun sport experience through positive coaching.

Ensuring the continuation of participation in physical activity is an important part of positive youth development. Coaches and leaders can encourage continued participation through making sports fun. Using some of the concepts from the research, we can create practices we can implement in our coaching and leadership roles. We can encourage and foster positive peer relationships, we can also be a respectful coach that uses positive reinforcement. These are simple and cost free ways that we, as coaches and providers of youth leadership, can help youth to not only develop into healthy adults but to allow them to enjoy physical activity in the present time but also hopefully in the future too.

There are many things coaches can do to make sports fun and reduce dropout in sports, and for those who are interested I suggest looking at the articles and investigating further into research that has been done on reducing dropout in sports and promoting fun physical activity.


¹Temple, V. A., & Crane, J. R. (November 01, 2016). A systematic review of drop-out from organized soccer among children and adolescents. Soccer & Society, 17, 6, 856-881.

²Visek, A. J., Achrati, S. M., Manning, H., McDonnell, K., Harris, B. S., & DiPietro, L. (2015). The Fun Integration Theory: Towards Sustaining Children and Adolescents Sport Participation. Journal of Physical Activity & Health, 12(3), 424–433. http://doi.org/10.1123/jpah.2013-0180

³Martin, N. J. (January 01, 2014). Keeping It Fun in Youth Sport: What Coaches Should Know and Do. Strategies, 27, 5, 27-32.

ª40 Developmental Assets for Adolescents. (n.d.). Retrieved October 05, 2016, from http://www.search-institute.org/content/40-developmental-assets-adolescents-ages-12-18

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5 Responses to Keeping Sports Fun

  1. rachben1 says:

    I strongly agree that there are different determinants that make sports fun for youth and keep them engaged. However, when I reviewed the 11 determinants I was surprised by which ones ranked in the top three. I reflected on my own personal experiences in sport as a youth and thought about what made the activities fun. The determinants that stood out for me include games, team friendships, and learning and improving.

    In class we learned that sport enjoyment is one of the 5 antecedents within the sport commitment model. Another important model to consider is the self determination model. This model recognizes that social environments have a major impact on sport participation and enjoyment. In our class discussion we came up with a few ways as leaders and coaches to make sport fun for youth. These included giving youth freedom and choice about what activities they wish to engage in, not putting large amounts of pressure on youth and making sure to recognize and encourage improvement. I strongly agree that we need to educate sport and recreation leaders on ways to keep sport fun to help decrease the drop out levels and ensure that all youth are having fun and positive experiences.

  2. tabitharose123 says:

    I’d like to say that I agree that those three determinant points are very important in order to have fun! As I read your blog, I saw a common factor in all three of those points, and that is positive mentality. And when I say positive mentality, I mean an excited and interested approach to an activity. In point #3, you did mention positive coaching. I agree, but think positive peer attitudes is just as important, if not more. I hear the saying “Peer Pressure” on a regular basis. We know that peers are one of the most highly influential groups on youth in the early teen years. If the coach is the only one that is excited about the sport/activity, it won’t be as influential on a player, as it would if all of his peers were excited about the activity. From my own experience, I have noticed that an sport/activity becomes much more enjoyable for myself when the other people involved have a positive outlook towards it! Other people’s mentalities and attitudes tend to rub off on a person. So positive mentality of all the people involved in the activity is important, but ultimately your own mentality. Although others can influence your perspective, you must make the decision for yourself finally. One must see an activity in a positive way for it to be more fun for himself!

    Enjoyed reading your article, Andrea! 🙂

  3. swatson12 says:

    I think this is such a neat and interesting article Andrea! I think the idea of having fun in sport and also when being physically active is sometimes lost when we get into the competitive side of things. I can say that playing sports all through my years in middle and high school I could relate to all of the points that you touched on and also the remaining 11 that you listed.

    Being involved in sport I enjoyed trying hard and also the people that were around me as well. If my team was not trying hard as well it was as if my efforts did not even count and that is when it became not as fun as you had mentioned. You always seem to have someone on a team though who is having an off day or just does not want to try and it can bring the atmosphere and fun out of the game down for everyone else.

    Another point that you had made was on positive coaching. I think this is very important because I have seen some people quit playing sport because of a coach that they had. When you are a coach you have a role to play and I think sometimes they do not take it as seriously as it should be. These children or youth are looking to you to lead and guide them, so you have to do this in a positive but also constructive way so that the players are improving while also having fun. I think when done right, having a coach can really increase your love for a sport and playing it when you are excited to go to games and practices knowing you have a positive coach.

    Thanks again for the great post Andrea! 🙂

  4. Darrion Sterling says:

    Great article for reflection and contemplation within our field! The idea of fun in sport and physical activity is so important when keeping youth interested and active. I agree with the implications that the three major points have in value to this topic, however the remaining 11 listed are also largely influential to the subject. Personally, I believe that learning and improving kept my attention to sport when I was in Judo. Growing up, there were times I wanted to quite my sport because I felt that the club lacked a team atmosphere that I could enjoy, however I stayed because I wanted to better myself and win more competitions. Although this was a positive factor for myself, some children may not progress in sport and recreation because of the stress from competition. Since I have always played sports I believe that all of the listed point are highly relevant and important to consider when making programs for youth.
    I believe that a common denominator to the points would be an overall positive mindset and perspective. A positive attitude towards any kind of teachings will increase the fun of the topic; therefore whatever aspect is being approached it would be worth mentioning that as a guidance to youth, one should always exhibit the characteristics they want to develop in others. In a team setting this is crucial because if teammates are enjoying themselves and putting in a lot of effort, there’s a higher chance of that being reflected in everyone else. If there are individuals who are not enjoying the activities then a good team moral and positive atmosphere may change their initial negative emotions.
    Great article!

  5. phanley8 says:

    Great job Andrea! I totally agree with you, you have to keep sports fun to keep youth engaged in them. If we don’t keep sports fun, or if we solely have drill based practices that kids don’t enjoy, what reason do they have to keep coming back?

    I agree with the three main groups talked about, and how important they are to activities and to keep things fun. Obviously they’re all connected to each other and come together for the big picture. Being supported by your teammates is a great thing, knowing that you win and lose together and are like minded individuals with a common goal is important. Trying hard and always doing your best can come back to being supported by your teammates, if someone is having an off day you can just kind of reassure them and help them out as much as you can. It’s great to be individually motivated, but even better to have everyone on the same page working their hardest together. It’s fun to be in sync with your teammates and know exactly what’s going on, while also making it more enjoyable to watch. I really like your point about positive coaching, and most especially how important youth voice is. How are coaches going to know where they stand if they don’t get feedback from the kids? They’re the reason that we’re doing this in the first place, it would only make sense for it to be centred around them and for the team to have input as well. I’ve just recently started coaching Grades 2&3 boys basketball, and never having coached before the main point that the other coaches are stressing to me is to keep it fun and have them WANT to come back, which directly relates to your article!

    I also agree with the comments from above and how crucial it is to have a positive attitude and mindset when it comes to sport. It’s easy to get excited about something you’re passionate about, and through making and keeping sports fun for kids they can experience that same passion!

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