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Fitness on the Coast

08/30/2013 09:53AM ● Published by Nancy Babin

Ahhh, school is back in session and that means organized sports are as well. Look around and you will see kids partaking in athletic endeavors for many reasons. According to Colleen Hacker, NSCAA National Academy coach and sports psychology professor at Pacific Lutheran University, children play soccer:

To have fun.
To be with friends.
To experience the excitement of competition.
To enhance their physical fitness.
To demonstrate their competence.

Although the research for these results was based on soccer, I believe the reasons children play other sports are the same.

Unfortunately, roughly 3/4 of the children who play soccer (and other sports too) stop playing their sport before they reach 13 years of age. Why? What happens to them?

A recent study identified the top five reasons for this high percentage are:

  1. Lack of playing time

  2. Overemphasis on winning

  3. Other activities are more interesting

  4. Lack of fun

  5. Coaching /adult behaviors

Although some may say #3 is one we can do nothing about, I argue that provided the right coaching even this is somewhat controllable. Ultimately, #4 is the main reason. Kids are kids and they like to have fun. Remove the fun for a kid and they seek out something else that is.

Not playing enough? Go find a sport where you get to play more.

Overemphasis on winning - phooey. The kid may just want to play.

Coaching/adult behaviors getting in the way? Find an activity where avoiding adults is more fun. OR, train the coaches and parents the ground rules.

I have coached in the local recreation league since 2006 when my kids were signed up for soccer. I had NO CLUE about the game except I knew what a ball looked like and I thought the objective was to put it, albeit with your feet, into the other team’s goal.

I quickly put together that I would consider myself “successful” as a coach if the kids wanted to play the next season. What a disservice I would be doing them to ruin the game in any way for them. I learned basic skills to pass on to them at ages 5 and 9. Winning was of course fun, but fortunately not my main objective.

We learn through repetition so the basics were covered every practice. We all have more fun in an activity if we have learned the basics, feel at least a tiny amount of success, are with friends, get to play and feel the game was played fair.

As I learned more about the game and about coaching, I became slightly more confident. My goal was to teach, have fun and keep the kids interested in the game. In the beginning it was necessary for me to remind the parents that their kids are valuable and as a result, their kids have the opportunity to play equal parts of the game. They also would learn about being on a team which sometimes meant they didn’t always get to play the position they wanted.

Would some kids play more than others? Yes, some would. Sometimes is was conditioning and a child would ask to sit for a bit. Other times they just would not want to go out on the field due to fear, their friends just sat on the bench and they wanted to be together, or because when instructed to play a particular position would not want to play it.

It takes a village to raise a child: coaches, family, the community, everyone. We all have our roles in this. I know for a fact our community needs coaches for the recreational leagues. They are recreational, not the professionals. Trust me: get involved with your kids’ activities. Choose to coach even if you do not know the game. Find someone who knows a little more or has more interest and be an assistant to them. It takes a team to herd the cats!

Ultimately, the goal was have fun, learn the game and keep the children interested. Share with them the joy of moving their bodies. There will always be the percentage that will choose not participate.

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