Objective of Youth Sport

The Sporting Influencer

Considering the pressures of the expectancy of winning, generating successes and most importantly the rewards success brings within the modern sporting environment. The burden and weight placed upon youth coaches to succeed and generate successes with team(s) and/or with athlete(s) are ever existent within youth sports. Reluctantly, the capability of HOW an athlete and/or team are capable of executing such accomplishments (The Process) are commonly overlooked.  The success, defined by some as "Winning" (The Outcome) is an accumulation of pressures and eagerness to internally pursue self-fulfilment from victories records, trophies, feeding their own ego or incredibly please parents. Objectively approaching youth sports within such approach and manner potentially impedes and over-shadows countless invaluable short & long-term developmental benefits.   It's imperative that coaches when acquiring a new team, or approaching a new season, to be embracing parental involvement. In order to develop an effective collaboration (Athletic Triangle) and enhances a child's learning and provide a positive soccer experience. Jones, Cassidy, and Potrac (2004) stated that it might be beneficial for coaches to have a discussion with parents (Planning Parents Meeting) clarifying why the coaches selected certain methods and how beneficial that may be. Nevertheless, coaches such approach such topic cautiously and purposefully allowing all stakeholders to become accustomed to different approaches and activates (Jones et al., 2004).  Jones et al., (2004) continues to reiterate that some coaches may need to prove such approach to parents, peers and organization, thus creating a better understanding of such approach.

Personal experiences:

I've attempted to conduct pre-season parents meeting to highlight numerous topics, including "The objective of youth sports'. At times, we naturally get carried away with wins and losses, goal scores or trophies won, without really understanding the foundation of WHY youngsters chose to participate in youth sports. Additionally, I've managed to gauge an understanding, of how parents view and approach youth sport and what they
deem as success via a Questionnaire. The Questionnaire can be either handed individually to parents and returned, or produced via "Survey Monkey", which provides each parent to provide answers confidentially.

Objective of Youth Sport

It's important to emphasize that EVERY individual has the right to participate in  sport. We can all resonate with those families that find it difficult to commit to a sport due to financial constraints, transportations issues, work commitments etc. The frustrations we face are those denying an individual the right to participate due to "Not being good enough", or the decision being taken away from the child. Participating in sport provides a young individual a platform to first and foremost exercise and increase health and fitness (Fraser-Thomas, Côté, and Deakin, 2005). The continuation of participating in sport develops additional key components such as psychological i.e. developing leadership skills, self-discipline, respect for authority, competitiveness, cooperativeness, sportsmanship, and self-confidence (Smith & Smoll, 2007). Furthermore, sport creates an environment where young athletes can improve and develop social skills (Aikawa, 2009), as social skills are crucial for building great relationships (Lv, L., & Takami, K. 2015). In turn, improved social skills can aid young individuals to make new friends and acquaintances and become part of an ever-expanding social network (Smith & Smoll, 2007). These essential components aren't only for a sport they can be applicable to life, in general, coaches should place an emphasis on sharing such benefits with parents. Those involved usually neglect such benefits or worst still is over-looked by the outcome of game or championship. We mustn't forget that participation is sport should be FUN.

Clark, 2008; Kremer–Sadlik & Kim, (2007) illustrates that given any sporting environment parent(s) have been highlighted as one of the major influences on a child's level of enjoyment and participation. With such evidence, the sporting environment can bring a family together also, connect with other families.  In contrast, one of the major influences of decreasing and removing "FUN" from a sporting environment is when adults (Coaches & Parents) transform the youth sporting environment to regarding youngsters as professionals. The key problem here is adults tend to compare the developmental sporting environment to the professional game. Smith,& Smoll, (2007) maintained that the developmental sporting environment is where the "educational process" can occur. In comparison to the professional sports, in which is centered around entertainment and financial success that depend heavily on the unpredictability of individual and/or team success (Defined as Winning.). Smith,& Smoll, (2007) expressed that if a greater emphasis is placed upon winning (Outcome), it then becomes easy to neglect, over-shadow the needs and interest of the young athlete (Process).  As a coach I've always reiterated to the players "control the controllable' in which they can control their own level of effort and performance rather than attempting to control the outcome (Uncontrollable).

Coaches/Parents reading this may alert to the fact that sport is a notion surrounding success in terms of victory (Outcome), and if we place a lesser emphasis on winning young athletes will become demotivated.  Yes, the creation of sport is designed around winning or losing, yet we shouldn't be defining individuals and/or team's ability by our winning or losing record, especially within youth sport. Coaches should collaborate will parents and highlight the need to create a player-cantered learning environment for every young athlete, emphasizing on skill development, personal and team success, maximum effort, and fun (Smith and Smoll, 2009;2010)

Research Evidence

Therefore, parents may begin to question, what should young athletes seek to accomplish by participating in sport? It's important that we simply ask the young athletes,

Personal Experiences and procedures implemented:

100 Point Exercise
Player Questionnaire
Parent Questionnaire (Available Soon)
Below are research conducted to examine what young athletes seek to accomplish from participating in sport:

A survey of more than 100,000 youth sports participants in the state of Michigan indicated that young athletes participated for the following reasons: (listed in the order of their importance:

a) To have fun,

b) To improve skills and learn new skills,

c) For thrills and excitement,

d) To be with friends or make new friends,

e) To succeed or win

Universities Study Committee, Joint Legislative Study on Youth Sports Programs:1978
More Recent and a similar study conducted by Amanda Vick in 2014 study for George Washington University interviewed numerous youth athletes and asked them why they played sports, and 9 out of 10 said the #1 reason they played was it was fun. If your young athletes are not having fun, they will eventually walk away, regardless of talent or how good their team or coach is (changingthegameproject.com).

I strongly advise every coach and parent(s) to consider such evidence when observing their child participating in youth sport. As spoken within the "Athletic Triangle" it's imperative to collaborate with parents and players, especially when determining realistic targets within the sporting environment. I finish the blog by asking: When your child participates for the final time, what will you remember the most the outcomes of games or the process?

Thank you