As daily news reports remind us about the obesity issues facing our society, there’s some concern young people are dropping out of sports just when they should be encouraged to stay active.
Speculation is that kids quit because there’s too much emphasis on winning or they’re simply burning out early because of the overall pressures.
Max Trenerry is a psychologist and soccer coach. He’s seen many kids succeed and enjoy the sport, but he’s also watched kids drop out, hating practice, stressed about the game and feeling too much pressure from coaches and parents.
“That pressure may take the fun out of the sport and kids might play because of that pressure, not because of their own interest,” Trenerry said.
Trenerry says when kids play to please others, or for the sake of a reward, they’re at increased risk of dropping out.
So how do you keep kids in the game?
Trenerry says there are three things you need to do to keep your kids interested in sports: choices, competence and caring.
“These are basic human needs. If we don’t have them we don’t keep doing whatever it is,” Trenerry said.
Kids need to be able to choose the sports they want to play. For competence, kids need to feel a sense of success. Their self-belief needs to come from a sense of effort and improving athletic skill regardless of winning or losing.
And young athletes need to feel cared for, that parents and coaches care about their feelings and thoughts and will take them seriously, regardless of if they win or lose the game. Kids also need to feel like they are part of a group.
Trenerry also suggests to care through your communication. He says you can do this by asking your child how practice or the game went. Instead of asking if he or she scored a goal, ask if he or she had fun and ask what he or she learned that day.
Trenerry says if you notice your child is losing interest in a sport, or if your child is stressed, talk to him or her and ask why. This will help you determine if your child no longer enjoys the sport, or if there was an incident at practice or in a game, or with a teammate, that’s causing your child to be stressed.