Have you ever wondered why computer games are so popular among our youngsters? Why is it that they can spend hours and hours at the time behind a computer screen, but can’t sit still and have a conversation with you? Why is it that they don’t get burned out by playing the same game over and over again?
Before we answer those questions, let this sink in: Over 35% of the millions of children who play youth sports quit after the first year of competition. 85% of the children who continue to play drop out of organized sports all together between the ages of 10 and 17.
Why is that happening? Why is it that so many children drop out of sports that they used to like playing?
Research has shown that for the most part it is the adult in their lives that are to blame….. Wonder why? To answer that question let’s first ask ourselves why children choose to play sports.
Ask children why they play sports and the first answer you get is: “because it is FUN!”. Running around with friends, freed from the daily chores like school, cleaning up their room and do dishes, what is more fun than that? Learning new skills is something that children enjoy. The opportunity to learn new skills and then show them off and gain recognition is a huge self-esteem booster. If a child is good at something, he/she wants to entertain his/her parents and other adults in their lives as well as their friends. What is more fun than enjoying sports with your friends? Working together to achieve a common goal is a very important life lesson and is truly enjoyable for most children as it creates a sense of belonging. Believe it or not but another reason why children play sports is to get and stay in shape.
Notice something? Winning is not one of the top reasons why children play sports. Study after study show the same result. Children play sports for the fun of it. Knowing now what the reasons are why children play sports, we can look into why they quit.
The primary reason is that children are not having FUN. Additional causes for children to quit sports include an overemphasis on winning by the parents and/or the coaches. The coach or parent yelled at the child for making a mistake. The verbal abuse associated with winning at all costs caused feelings of self-doubt. The child perceived that his or her abilities were not good enough to play so they quit. This perceived lack of ability creates low intrinsic motivation within the child. Their competitive flame was extinguished and consequently the child began to use excuses for not wanting to play like: I lost interest, it's not fun anymore, it's too time consuming, or I'm tired of playing.
We want children to win. Of course, we do. We shout in the stands and push them to work hard, but we make a mistake when we focus on the result. There will be inevitable losses and disappointments. When our children feel the only point of playing sports is competing and winning, they lose interest when they can’t meet these expectations.
In the popular youth sports culture today, many parents want kids to play sports for the future. They use games and events as a place to showcase their child’s skills. They make sure their children are among the best players to have better chances for exposure to get into college. It’s not even about the team anymore, but the individual.
This takes the fun out of sports. The things parents hope they’re going to achieve and the money they’re spending for a collegiate sport experience are often unrealistic. Most kids will not grow up to be a professional athlete, and it might be better to ease up on the performance pressure and focus on enjoying the journey.
So back to the first questions, why do children enjoy computer games so much? As a parent are you yelling over their shoulders what to do during a game of Fortnite?
Next month we will discuss what children should get out of their sports experiences.
Quote of the month:
"Failure is not the opposite of success
It’s part of success"
Director of Professional Development
Total Soccer Development
US Soccer/ NJYS Coaching Instructor