01/09/2021- Coach Digest


As part of a series of articles for coaches and members interested in coaching, BF’s Head of Pathways Steve Kemp  revisit Fun Integration Theory and explores how it relates to the Athlete Development Programme.

Fun is the main determinant of a young athlete’s commitment and sustained involvement in sport. In 2015, scientist Amanda Visek from the department of exercise and nutrition sciences at George Washington University investigated this idea in a robust yet practical way. Her work led to what is now known as Fun Integration Theory.

When the fun-factors were assessed to gauge their relative importance, Trying Hard, Positive Team Dynamics, and Positive Coaching came out on top. Learning and Improving, Games, Practices, Team Friendships, Mental Bonuses and Game Time Support were next.

Few would debate that the sporting experience for youth should be fun. The problem is, fun means different things to different people. What could it mean within the Athlete Development Programme?

At first, it feels amazing to be there. Everything is new and exciting, and this captivates attention. Then the real work starts. The next phase loving fencing, but it is the love for competition, training is the process of work and sometimes grind to be ready to perform at competition. The recent feedback from the Cadet and Junior Nationals highlighted that the young fencers were buzzing after the event, to perform in front of a crowded stand, in a massive sports hall, armours, referees, support staff making it feel really special.

This will be complemented by the jostling to keep position and will mean they are forced to be at their best every day and they absolutely love this. The Fun is found in working hard and competing against others.

Near the end of this process, motivations can/will change. Instead of comparing themselves to the fencers around them, they looked inside themselves and asked an important question: what would it look like to take my performance to the next level? “Because you’re coming close to the end of an age group, making a transition, you want to make sure everything’s done really well. There is much more of an eye for the detail.” As an older and more experienced fencer, fun lays in the processes of learning and improving to make themselves better.

Fun is an emotional thing. It’s a personal thing. When asked to recount what makes something fun in our own lives, we tend to describe experiences that are deeply personal, excite and surprise us and ultimately, leaves us feeling really good.

The early experiences set the foundations of fun, disagreement about what make sport fun is more likely between adolescent fencers and their coaches. Fun is the main determinant of committed and sustained participation; performance is based on participation at various increasing levels. With this in mind.

A Reflective Question.

What is fun for the pathway fencer at their stage of development and their goals

Reference:  The fun integration theory: toward sustaining children and adolescents sport participation  AJ Visek, SM Achrati, HM Mannix, K McDonnell, BS Harris, L DiPietro Journal of Physical Activity and Health 12 (3), 424-433

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