Many parents sign their kids up for a sports team at an early age. And this is a great way to add in socialization and work on motor skills. However, kids can lose interest in their sports team as they grow.
Kids need the motivation to stick with a sport throughout their adolescence.
While parent support is important for encouraging exercise and organized sports participation, too much pressure often leads to burnout on the child. This is one of the reasons why kids want to quit the team.
Remember that exercise for youth should be fun!
When looking at motivation and what this means for kids in organized sports, researchers use the self-determination theory (Deci & Ryan, 1985, 2000) that looks at what causes people to grow.
In the context of sticking with a sports team long-term, intrinsic motivation (behaviors are now based on internal rewards such as natural enjoyment of exercise) is essential. It also is when it comes to making choices regarding involvement in sports in general.
Using this theory, that there are three things kids need to have intrinsic motivation:
Autonomy —> feeling that they are in control of their own actions.
One study found that kids in track and field had more autonomy when the coach didn’t make all the decisions.
For coaches, this means giving young athletes a choice in the types of workouts done that day.
Competence —> feeling they have the skills needed to participate.
Researchers found that adolescent swimmers who quit their program were linked to feeling like they weren’t good enough to continue to participate.
It is important that kids feel competent in that activity to continue with it, and for this case, stick with their sports team.
Research found competence levels start to decline when kids are 6- to 12-years-old. This is because of more social awareness with age as they start to compare themselves to peers.
To help with this, kids are encouraged to continue making effort towards a goal linked to that sport.
Social relatedness —> that they can maintain positive socialization with their peers.
2006 research found that a positive link on self-motivation when soccer players ages 10 to 14 had peer acceptance.
- To make decisions.
- To feel like they are worthy and bring something to the team.
- Have the support of their teammates and coach.
Coaches and parent volunteers can encourage self-motivation in youth to have them have a love for their sports team by allowing them to pick the drills or exercises in a segment of practice. Another good tip is to allow them to stick with their friends. Many kids sign up for a sports team because their friends are on the team, so allow for that socialization which is a major motivating force.
There is a fine line between pushing a child too hard to participate in a sport and allowing them not to because they simply want to quit. Kids should stick with a sports team for the entire season because they are committed to doing so.
A great tip for parents of toddlers who “aren’t in the mood” for the activity should just have them sit out on the sidelines and watch instead of forcing them to play or having them go home. At least they can witness the skills taught and see their peers having fun as they get warmed up to playing.
Parents of older kids shouldn’t put too much pressure on winning or performance and instead, praise them for their efforts and growing skills to keep their interest in the sports team.
Sources: Youth Physical Activity and Sedentary Behavior, Alan L. Smith and Stuart J,H. Bidder