Make sports fun again


By Lanier Pickren

When I think of youth sports, I usually picture young kids playing a sport that they love. However, far too often I hear the voices of parents and coaches demanding for better plays, and criticizing the young players for mistakes that they have made. The game belongs to the kids, and but it has been made about the adults.

As a child, my parents never pushed hard for my siblings and I to play a sport. Yes, they encouraged us to try sports and other extracurriculars, but it was never forced upon us. This allowed us to choose and find for ourselves what we like.  

However, this is not always the case. Often times, parents set their children on the path that they want them to follow, forcing them at an early age to choose one sport to specialize in. A study by NCBI in 2013 showed that there is no evidence that specialized training in most sports is necessary to achieve professional levels in that sport. In fact, it creates a higher risk of injury in the sport and higher levels of psychological stress

Sports are meant to be played. The definition of the word “play” is “to engage in activity for enjoyment and recreation rather than a serious or practical purpose”. Twenty to thirty years ago, sports were played for the fun of it. They were something to enjoy, something used to relieve stress. Today, sports are a cause of stress for many young people, and a main reason why is that youth sports have become more about the adults than the children.

Children that have specialized in a specific sport since they were young often feel the pressure of “being the best”. Coaches and parents push their players hard, driving them to a goal of receiving a sports scholarship or professional position at a young age. The reality is that only roughly 1% of athletes ages 6-17 achieve elite status in basketball, soccer, baseball, softball, or football. The goals that we force upon them are unreasonable.

Another way sports have been adultified is when we overemphasize winning. In today’s sports we often hear that winning is the only way to succeed, or it is the only way to have self value. When adults we look up to seem upset hours after a lost youth sports game, it is discouraging to the young player and puts them in the mindset discussed above. According to a survey conducted by Amanda Visek of George Washington University in 2014, 90% of children said that the main reason they played a sport was for “fun”. One of things the children listed under the category “less fun” was winning. When we force winning upon the kids, it makes the sport less fun for them and the desire to continue the sport drop.

All this being said, let’s give the game back to the kids, and put the “play” back in “playing”. Let’s make sports about them, not the coaches and parents of the players. Let’s make sports fun again!