Should Parents Only Focus on Fun in Youth Sports?


Training Young Athletes to take their Sports Seriously

Does Focusing Too Much on Fun Lead to Sports Kids Dropping Out?

Often, parents focus too much on ensuring their kids are having fun in youth sports, which results in kids dropping out if the experience isn’t fun or entertaining, says Jonathan Edwards, Olympian, speaker, coach and author of “An Athlete’s Guide to Winning in Sports and Life.” But kids don’t drop out of math or English when they’re no longer fun. What should parents do?

“We talk about how sports should be fun. I don’t think it’s the right word. It muddies the sports journey. Fun is different for everyone,” he told us during an interview on the Ultimate Sports Parent podcast.

Kids will say video games are fun, and when they’re no longer fun, they just click away.

Math has performance metrics. But in sports that’s not always true, he says.

“We want more for kids in sports—character development, teamwork and hard work. It’s a massive list. Yet when it’s not fun, we allow kids to fall away…A lot of people will step away or discount the experience or get on the coach but wouldn’t do that with a teacher.”

Parents need to take sports more seriously when kids are younger, Edwards says.

Here at The Ultimate Sports Parent, we agree that it’s a good idea to encourage kids to hang in there.  But too much pressure from parents can cause kids to drop out. It’s important to strike a balance.

Edwards says that if kids struggle in sports, parents could treat the young athletes the same way they do when kids have trouble in school: by focusing on improvement, issues like tactical and physical abilities.

Edwards often works with both aspiring athletes and their parents to address these issues.

It’s important to focus on “soft skills” such as dedication and teamwork, says Edwards. If parents took those skills more seriously when their kids first begin participating in sports, it would eliminate some of the confusion about sports, he says.

Some parents emphasize the performance side of sports. Others concentrate on the entertainment side. That will create a divide in any program, says Edwards.

The experience would be less muddied or confusing if all parents came to sports with a focus on creating an enjoyable experience for their kids and on working together to improve as a team.

“My focus is wherever you are right now, you have  a goal. Wherever you are right now we need to manage this situation to get you where you need to go,” he says.

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