Kids play sports for a variety of important reasons: to learn teamwork, to be athletic, to appreciate the value of hard work, to make friendships, and so on. Given this multitude of reasons, what is the one thing every youth sports team needs to do to be successful? Institute smart training? Play hard all the time? Constantly Improve? Win?
None of these things apply, though some are undoubtedly important. Above all, the one thing every youth sports team needs to do is HAVE FUN!
We put “HAVE FUN!” in caps for a reason: Too often, that gets lost in the shuffle of youth rec sports. One survey discovered that 9 out of 10 kids said the primary reason they play sports is to have fun. Unfortunately, many parents, coaches, and even administrators are not always on the same page. Here are some reasons why they should be:
Fun Has Nothing to Do with Winning or Losing
The idea that winning isn’t generally more fun than losing is a bit naïve—a team that wins a championship probably will come away with a couple more happy memories than one than that doesn’t. However, there are plenty of youth sports teams that win titles with players and parents who are stressed out and not enjoying the experience. Fun should be the first and foremost goal, from which other goals naturally are realized. Improvement is easier if kids are having fun at practice. Hard work is easier if it’s packaged in an enjoyable way. Victories and losses won’t matter if kids are having fun along the way. Youth team sports are about building memories, and hopefully, what the players will take away from their experience was how much fun they had, not the number of trophies on their shelves.
The Risk of Kids Not Having Fun
When players on a youth sports team are not having fun, the consequences eventually bubble to the surface. They stop trying as hard. They get down on themselves if teammates and even their coaches are harping on them to play better—and becoming upset if they don’t. These unhappy players disengage and may not return for the next year, if they even last the current season. Having fun doesn’t mean goofing off—players still must respect coaches, officials, and each other—but it does mean being excited and enthusiastic every time a kid steps on the field or court.
The Risk of Losing Parents’ Enthusiasm
When parents don’t think their children are having fun, there is a tendency for the adults to disengage as well. If a player is standing around at practice, uninvolved, or is not getting sufficient playing time relative to his or her teammates, parents may start to wonder if it’s worth their time. After all, they are the ones paying registration fees, rearranging schedules to fit practices and games, and remembering to bring snack. That effort can seem pointless if their kids aren’t having fun. Moreover, these parents might be less likely to connect with other parents on the team. Fans are watching games in silence, no community forms, and kids are often not registered for the next season.
How League Management Software Can help
League management software can provide a big boost for youth sports teams looking to maximize fun. For starters, league and team news and schedules can be posted on an organization’s website—kids can’t have fun if they aren’t attending practices and games. The software fosters better communication, thus building the team community; playdates for teammates who just became friends are easier to set up if parents can contact each other. Team pages offer the opportunity to post pictures and videos—visual proof that the kids, and the adults, are having fun.
How much emphasis on fun does your league have?