Why Kids play Sport

6-8soccerWhy kids play sports. (an exert from Changing the game blog – see resources page)

Do they play sports because they get to go to tournaments, or because of the promise of a trophy for participation? Do they play to get a scholarship? Are these the things that motivate them to use up so much of their childhood? Or is the answer something much more simple?

The answer, according to every piece of research I have ever read, in nearly 9 out of 10 athletes surveyed, is this:

“Because it’s fun. I play sports because I enjoy them.”

Children play sports because it brings them enjoyment. Adults continue to play sports because it brings them enjoyment. Even pros play because they love to play, and when it stops being enjoyable, they retire. We all seek out things that we enjoy doing, and avoid things we do not. Why would kids be any different?

When Amanda Visek of George Washington University asked children in 2014 why they played sports, 9 out of 10 said because it was fun. When asked what made sports fun, here were their top answers:

  1. Trying your best
  2. When the coach treats a player with respect
  3. Getting playing time
  4. Playing well as a team
  5. Getting along with teammates
  6. Being active

Much farther down the list we find winning (48), playing in tournaments (63), private training with specialized coaches (66), and my favorite, taking team pictures (81).  In a nutshell, kids want excitement, support, and positive interactions with their peers and the adults. Those things bring enjoyment.

Further age specific research by Paul McCarthy and Marc Jones has found that poor coaching and punishment for mistakes take the enjoyment away for younger children, while peer rivalries, overemphasis on winning, and excessive training and expectations suck the enjoyment out of sport for older athletes. Does any of this sound familiar, if not with your child in sports, perhaps in your own job?

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