REVISITING – WHAT MAKES YOUTH SPORT FUN?
Why do children choose to play sport? …because it is fun! This has consistently been the number one response to surveys on why children participate in junior and youth sport.
The Fun Factors and now including the Not Fun factors
It is important to note that children see fun very differently to how adults do. Dr Amanda Visek, et al. in a 2014 study, ‘The Fun Integration Theory: Towards Sustaining Children and Adolescents Sport Participation’ asked children to define fun in youth sports.
The research established “81 characteristics of fun and they were then classified into 11 Fun Factors” and ranked on what children outlined as fun.
The three highest rated factors of fun for children were:
1. Trying Hard
2. Positive Team Dynamics
3. Positive Coaching
This includes aspects such as:
Also highlighted that within their research there was in fact very little difference on the views of fun between; males and females, high socio-economic and low socio-economic backgrounds and talent/elite pathway players and ‘recreational’ players. Fun is the critical factor.
Full list of the 11 Fun Factors and the 81 Fun Determinants are listed in order of importance from highest to lowest. For further detail please visit the full article on this page.
Children ranked winning at number 48 in Amanda Visek’s list of 81 fun determinants.
A win-at-all-costs mentality introduced by adults extracts fun from sport quicker than any other factor. It can be open or subtly hidden in the conversations of “the importance to have a winner and loser – just like we have in life or business”. They will raise the question of a child’s development if they don’t learn how to win or lose. Children know whether they win or lose a game, bout or competition. Quite often poor reactions to a loss are a learnt behaviours and in fencing competitions overall you lose more often that you win and there is nothing wrong with having a winner or losers.
There is an importance to understanding how a child understands Fun. This is to ensure an athlete-centered or fencer-first approach and the impact of Fun from a psychological perspective in developing intrinsic motivation which will be critical to sustaining fencers in the sport.
Coaches and parents that have a win-at-all-costs mentality may get the short-term wins but ultimately the club, the competition or the sport will lose, as we have children dropping out due to them not having fun anymore. This impacts on the adult playing base and their competitions, without enough of the next generation coming through.
Whilst it is a positive step to understand the “Fun Side” there is also the counter point –
The Not-Fun Factors and Not-Fun Determinants. What do children see as not so fun in a sports environment. The initial feedback is of no surprise.
The challenges for coaches, parents and sports organisations will be to recognise and take steps in addressing these issues.
Unwanted Parent Behaviour – Children often find the behaviour of their parents at sport embarrassing including the way they react, yell, scream and ‘cheer’:
Ineffective Coaching – The coach is critical to whether a child has fun or not in youth sport. The children have identified the following coach behaviours that are not fun:
Some of these factors concur with feedback from fencers as part of the ADP programme.
The question was “What actions, behaviours do you want from your coach at training?”
Correlations to the research:
Poor Officiating – Children highlighted the following factors that lead to umpires or referees making the game not fun:
Bad Team Chemistry – included aspects like: player gets picked on by teammates, team doesn’t work together:
The other Not-Fun Factors identified include:
British Fencing are taking positive action in order to make the fencing experience more appealing and more FUN:
There are a number of practical implications for coaches, clubs and parents to consider from the research:
Whilst most fencers want to be like an Olympic Fencer, they don’t all want to be one. They do all want to have Fun!
Visek, A. J., Achrati, S., M. Mannix, H. M., McDonnell, K., & Harris, B. S., & DiPietro, L. (2015). The fun integration theory: Toward sustaining children and adolescents sport participation. Journal of Physical Activity and Health, 12, 424-433.
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