Youth sports participation has been shown to have considerable health benefits for young people; can be helpful in developing their social skills; and can even help improve their academic performance.

For example, a study of 207 children (Lakes & Hoyt, 2004) from Kindergarten through to grade 5 found students who participated in a three-month program of taekwondo had improved sociable behaviour, improved classroom conduct, performed better on maths tests and had better cognitive and emotional self-regulation. Closer to home, a New Zealand Study by Vibha Prasad in 2012 found participating in sport was positively associated with academic achievement for intermediate students.

Keeping our kids in sport is not just good for our kids, it’s good for our country. Did you know that in 2010, the cost of physical inactivity to New Zealand was measured to be $1.3 billion? Sport in large, is one of the major avenues for keeping Kiwis active and healthy.

Yet despite all the good things that sport can do for us, and especially our children, we know that many kids end up quitting sport.

Have you ever pondered why?

Richard Fryer from Believe Perform provides a good summary of why kids quit sport. Unsurprisingly, adults’ involvement in children’s sport hugely underpins many of the reasons why kids quit sport. Conversely, adults’ involvement in children’s sport also hugely impacts whether a child will enjoy sport, and ultimately grow a lifelong love of sport. This point can’t be understated.

So, with this in mind, what can coaches and parents do to make sure they are impacting their kids in the best way. That is, how can coaches and parents ensure that they are helping kids to grow a love of sport for life? Whilst each child is unique and may have different needs, the following four strategies warrant consideration:

  • Give children techniques for coping with pressure such as re-framing pre-race nerves as ‘excitement’.
  • Prioritise enjoyment in training and competition (particularly for younger athletes and kids just starting out in the sport)
  • Teach prioritisation and time management for older kids and generally take a flexible approach to programming that recognises kids’ lives are bigger than one sport
  • Praise effort more than outcomes. The feeling of not being good enough (associated with the negative emotion of shame) often stems from having too big an emphasis on performance targets, results and medals. When coaches and parents focus on the required effort (that will ultimately lead to success) it allows kids to take the pressure off, build the right skills and ultimately enjoy their sport for years to come.

The Good Sports Spine

Have a look at our Good Sports Spine, a tool we’ve created to help adults in children’s sport understand how they impact a child’s sporting experience and ultimately help adults help kids fall in love with sport for life.