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