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There’s no doubt youth sports provide tremendous benefits for kids, and as parents, we want to keep our kids engaged with their activities and goals as much as possible. But what happens when your child loses interest? Understanding the most common reasons why kids retire from sports in the first place can help keep kids in the game. The Aspen Institute has created Project Play, a report that tackles the reasons why some kids drop out of sports and how parents can help, and the #DontRetireKid campaign, which promotes the reason kids enjoy sports in the first place: they’re fun. Here are four tips and campaign highlights to help keep kids enjoying sports—and thriving as a result.
Keep things fun
Kids know what they like and don’t like, and they know what’s fun for them. Start a conversation with your children by asking what they like about specific sports, what they don’t like, what they feel they’re good at and what they’d like to do more of when it comes to their sport. According to the Project Play report, fun keeps kids playing longer, so it’s best to determine what your children actually like.
When you ask your youth athlete what’s most enjoyable when it comes to sports play, you may be surprised. Many parents believe winning is one of the top reasons kids stay in sports. But kids feel differently. Instead, most young athletes value playing time, respect from a coach or other athletes, playing well together as a team, and being active. Interestingly, according to the report, children tend to value travel less, even though they enjoy being social.
Navigating these conversations isn’t always easy, so the Aspen Institute created a tip sheet on how to talk to your child about their sports experience.
Throw out the playbook
Allowing kids to explore can help keep things light and fun. That means more freedom and less oversight and coaching. Studies have found that unorganized play can help foster creativity and teach kids how to set their own goals and achieve them. Your child can enjoy unstructured play in after-school programs, community centers, the playground or simply in their own backyard. Young athletes can foster a deeper love for their sport by playing pick-up games with peers and just enjoy playtime, without adults there to coach and regulate. Let the game and teammates teach lessons.
Raise a diverse athlete
Allowing kids to sample new sports helps them learn what they like—not to mention new skills. According to the Aspen Institute report, there are over 120 sports played in the United States and yet kids are only exposed to a few.
In a survey conducted by the U.S. Olympic Committee, however seven of 10 athletes reported they were raised as a multisport athlete. Of course, there are many benefits to being a multisport athlete. Students who participate in more than one sport, tend to play sports longer in life, reach elite status and have increased motor and psychological skills. Multisport athletes are also more likely to be more motivated and self-directed.
Find a great coach
This may seem obvious but your child’s relationship with their coach will have a large impact on their sports experience. Make sure coaches are well trained, even if they arer parent volunteers. Research conducted by the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition found that kids who have a good coach will have less anxiety and greater self-esteem.
A coach has the ability to mold young players into life-long athletes or even totally deplete a child’s love for the sport. Check out HowToCoachKids.org for more information on what makes a great coach.
Alison Kresta is a lifestyle writer who loves to cover all things health, fitness and wellness. When she isn’t writing, Alison spends her time coaching soccer, or with her 6-year-old son and their dog, Missy. Most days you can also find her teaching indoor cycling classes, training fitness clients, working out or doing anything outdoors.