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Bringing Fun Back to Youth Sports

Okay parents, here’s a question for you: What made you first playing love youth sports?

Whether we’re talking to someone who is 9 or 90, the answer tends to be having fun and making friends. A wide range of studies find that children have always played youth sports for these reasons. And in 20 or 30 years, the next generations are expected to have the same answer.

We all know how much kids love having fun. It’s the one thing they’ll always seem to do no matter what needs to be done. And, they still say sports can be fun. So, why are the majority of America’s children not playing sports once they reach their teens?

Why are our kids retiring from sport so early?

Should we let a child retire?

We’ve got three questions for you:

  1. What’s your child’s favorite sport? 
  2. What do you think they love most about it?
  3. What would it take to make them quit?

While the answer to #1 can change a lot depending on your child, it’s likely that just about every parent reading this post will have the same answers for the second and third question. Your child most likely just wants to have fun, and a little pressure from parents, coaches, or players is all it takes to make that fun go away.

Many of us never think about a child who stops playing sports as “retiring” but that finality is important. Most kids that quit sports don’t come back to them, and that can set a very sedentary precedent for the rest of their lives.

The Aspen Institute started the conversation about getting kids not to retire and we think it’s an amazing initiative. It shows why we should be considering how kids feel and why it’s so important that 90% of kids say that they play sports because they want to have fun.

Take just a minute and watch this, we think you’ll understand why we’re talking about fun and youth sports:

 

Making sure youth sports coaches are trained 

To create a fun and encouraging atmosphere, ActivStars works very hard to build our practice, training, events, and other activities. We take time to tackle the big issues that can prevent fun and learning — and we know these issues can come from all different places.

So, our efforts are designed to encourage your child and help them succeed through training and teamwork. That means creating lessons and drills that teach skills but also allow kids to play together. By focusing on team performance in many sports — and how to respect and praise others in our karate programs — our coaches lead by example when it comes to helping everyone have fun.

We know it works because science tells us, and the kids tell us too. Your child focuses on the fun aspects and our coaches reinforce it. 

Image courtesy of The Aspen Institute

The last point to mention for our coaches is their training on how to discuss goals and accomplishments with children. ActivStars teaches trainers and coaches to listen and respect the kids in our program, both their wants and their feelings. By treating them with respect, these children are more likely to let us know when things go right or when they feel wrong or scared about something. 

In the discussions about their goals, we use the same techniques to focus on their development instead of their outcomes. We encourage kids to get better and to grow, without making first place the only goal that they know. It’s an amazing feeling to help any child enjoy sports and find the confidence they need on and off the field.

Let’s talk about bullying (in and out of youth sports)

We’re in the process of turning our coach and student training into an online resource that anyone can see and use. Sign up for our newsletter to get the announcement when this is ready and to start getting monthly tips for bullying and other dangers that you can use to start a conversation with your child.

In the meantime, we want you to know that our coaches are specifically trained on recognizing and preventing bullying at every event and practice that we run. We also have lessons designed to teach your child what they can do and who can help.

This is important because many people can be bullies and make sports no longer fun.

Other children may bully based on someone’s appearance or athletic ability. We stop this by focusing our program on individual growth, not keeping score or punishing people who are at different levels.

Parents and other adults can bully through inappropriate behavior like taunting and yelling. This is one reason we are strict with our spectator policy. We control the environment and that means limiting potential negative impact to our students. At games and other events, our coaches and staff let anyone know when behavior is not okay and may remove them if it continues.

Some coaches who push scoring and what they feel as “professional skills” above all else can also bully the fun out of sport. That’s not our way. We think it should be discouraged at every point in youth sports. No child should feel so much pressure that they stop wanting to play and stop having fun.

The training our coaches receive to help spot and stop bullying can help you too. Talk to us after class or send an email if you have questions or concerns. Learn our ActivStars philosophy to see why it’s beneficial for everyone. And, become a partner in your child’s love of sport.

Finding fun near you

Part of the mission of ActivStars is to make it easier for families to find and afford youth sports programs in their area. We work hard to ensure classes are as low-cost as possible, and we also provide financial scholarships, under special circumstances, to help everyone participate.

Contact us directly to learn more about those scholarships, or visit the Karate, Soccer, and Cheer pages for specific costs based on class time and level.

If you’re ready to start looking at what’s closest to you, we recommend you download our new mobile app in the Google Play Store or Apple App Store. The new interface makes it simple to see what’s available in your area, class times, events, and more.

Plus, whenever enrollment is open for the upcoming semester, you can quickly, easily, and safely enroll your child right from the app.

Introducing the ActivStars Mobile App

Check it out!