Have fun!

The third pillar of Coach Chris Sports is the most important: Have Fun! It sounds simple and, in many ways it is, but there is more to it than meets the eye. The ultimate goal of any youth sports program should be that the participants have fun. Period. Sports = Fun or it doesn’t work. If your child is having fun in a program you will typically know it just on parental instinct. But since “having fun” means different things to different people, it can sometimes be tricky to know if they are truly enjoying their participation. Of course, trying your best and learning (the first two parts of the series) make up a big part of the equation that sets your child up for “fun” but how do you know for sure? AND How can you help facilitate their enjoyment or FUN? In my experience, there are a few key things that demonstrate true enjoyment or “fun”.

They want to play all the time:

“All my child wants to do now is play basketball” I loved hearing this. It usually came from the parent of a child new to the game. Maybe they were nervous at first, maybe they just had never played before but once they were coached and started having success, they could not put the ball down. Dribbling at home, shooting until the after dark in the backyard and wanting to take their ball with them everywhere they went. Awesome! Just for the record, my response was usually “Well, I can think of many things much worse than basketball that they could want to do all the time”. If they want to play all the time, they are enjoying it! So unless they are damaging themselves or damaging someone’s property (breaking things in the garage) encourage them and give them space to PLAY!

 

They make it a priority/sacrifice for it:

Kids, just like adults will make excuses to get out of something they don’t want to do. They might feign an illness to get out of a test, procrastinate to not do homework or “forget” to take out the trash. But there are certain things they won’t miss and if their practice or game is one of them, then they are on the right track. This is a clear-cut sign they are having fun and, as a parent should be used to your advantage. Create clear cut requirements for them to play and hold them to it. Don’t let them practice if they don’t finish their homework. Low grades, messy room or missed chores, no practice or game for them. This is a valuable lesson that will benefit them their entire lives: get your work done and take care of your responsibilities before you play. If they are having FUN they will sacrifice for it.

 

They smile:

It sounds simple but this might be the best measure. Children have less ability or need to suppress or mask their feelings so they often wear their emotions on their sleeve. Watch them before during and after the game or practice, if you see smiles, it a wonderful sign. You can help by smiling back! Match their energy and enthusiasm for whatever sport it is they enjoy and whatever the outcome on the scoreboard, above all else, make it clear that you love watching them play. When they talk about the game afterward or the next day and are still noticeably happy, that’s a WIN!

 

They Dig Deeper Into More Aspects of the game, on their own:

If your child is watching videos online, asking to read books or wanting to know more about the sport they are playing that is a clear sign that they are enjoying it. This shows they are interested, engaged and want to improve. If this is the case with your child – FEED THEIR INTEREST. It will only help their passion grow if you also dive in and learn with them. Maybe you don’t have a lot of knowledge about baseball but your child has developed a serious interest in the game, then you should develop one too. Learning together can only help them to grow and help your relationship with them. You don’t have to become an expert but showing that you are interested in learning will go a long way AND if you want to help make your child feel extra awesome, ask YOUR CHILD questions and make them the teacher. Doing this will help them to feel like they are the expert and help them gain confidence.

 

They really, truly pay attention and recall:

A standard practice in coaching or teaching is to do a short review of the previous session/lesson whenever a new session is started. This allows the “mental table” to be set for new information building on the previous session. I would always ask the kids some review questions from the previous class, game or practice to see what they remembered. If many hands were going up ready with answers then I had a group who was engaged, eager and having fun! If your child is recalling things from previous lessons on a consistent/regular basis then they are paying attention, recalling and HAVING FUN!

 They want to do it again regardless of previous outcomes:

Everyone kid wants to show up and play when things are going well but what about when things are not going so well. When I was running leagues we went through a painstakingly arduous process to create as much league parity as possible but it was never perfect. We would have teams who would only win one game or get blown out multiple times in a season but those kids kept coming back season after season. That was one of my proudest accomplishments that regardless of the outcome of their games, kids still wanted to come back and play in leagues that I was involved with. Why because they were having fun! If your child has a rough season and still wants to play the next time around then do everything you can to make it happen.

So they aren’t into it now what?:

If they aren’t having fun there could be a variety of reasons why. It is important to dig in and find out why, exactly, they aren’t enjoying the experience. If they truly don’t enjoy game or activity, no amount of pressure or coercion will change that. Be open to waiting a season or two to reintroduce the sport or trying different sports until you find one (hopefully multiple) that THEY truly enjoy (not one you think they should like). Once you find it, stick with it, support it and be 100% involved. The popularity of non-big three sports (football, baseball, basketball) is growing rapidly so activities like badminton, table tennis, flag football, ninja warrior and Ultimate Frisbee are examples of sports/activities that are more popular than ever. Whatever sport they choose to play make sure they have fun! The more fun they have the longer they will play. 

Kids, for the most part, wear their emotions on their sleeves if they are upset, happy, sad or feeling anything else, they can’t hide it. If your child is having fun you should be able to tell but if not the signs mentioned above should be good indicators. Remember, the two goals of youth sports: development and fun, are very intertwined. The better someone is at something, the more they will enjoy it, learning and improving will promote continued participation!

Feel free to reach out to Chris@coachchrissports.com with any questions, comments or topic ideas.