The Key Themes and Foundations of Youth Sports

by: Britney Morgan

wheelerWhat is youth sports about?  Youth Sports is about teaching and learning. It is an extension of the classroom. It is an intricate piece of child development where life skills are taught and learned.

Why is it important? Youth sports is important because it teaches kids at an early age how to win, how to lose, how to work with others and how to overcome adversity along with many other skills that are easily transferable into life outside of sports.

What are some of the key themes and foundations of youth sports?  

funFun: According to Michigan State University’s Insititute for the Study of Youth Sports a kid’s number 1 reason for playing sports is because it’s fun, but 70 percent of them drop out of team sports by the age of thirteen. Why? According to a comprehensive study conducted by the Women’s Sports Foundation (WSF), the most common answer between boys and girls is because they weren’t having fun.  How does this happen? While fun drives player retention in youth sports, too many programs focus primarily on just winning and not enough on the overall sports experience.

Teamwork: How to work with others.  In most life situations, just like in sports you have a role.  For example, in the workplace, successful departments  have defined roles for the people on their team. Good teammates do their part by working within that role and respecting the hard work of their counterparts.  Youth sports teaches this at an early age.

Discipline:  Setting goals and meeting them.  Goal setting, whether short or long term, is important to success. It is also very prevalent in youth sports.  A goal may be for a team to make 40 layups in one minute during basketball practice. To meet this goal players have to be disciplined. For example, jumping off the right foot and focusing on the top corner of the backboard every single time. That’s discipline.

sportsmanshipSportsmanship.  Learning how to win and how to lose.  It’s about respecting others, humility, winning with class, losing with grace and having self-control.  How players handle themselves in situations on the court can easily translate into real life situations. This makes teaching and celebrating positive character essential when coaching.

Overcoming adversity. Understanding that sometimes you will lose. It’s all about how you come back after being knocked down. Sports teaches you to keep pushing, keep fighting and never give up.  It teaches you to persevere and fall in love with the process and journey to success.

disHard work: Work ethic is essential, if not the most important factor in being successful. Kids should be taught that hard work trumps all. The best programs utilize their hardest workers. It doesn’t matter that a certain player scores 20 points per game if they don’t come to practice and give 100%. These players may not need to be the ones on the court until they show their worth. What do I mean by worth? The worth is in the WORK. Programs that put work before talent are doing more for our kids, because this teaches players good work ethic, better preparing them for life outside of sports.

Disclaimer: Sports is one of the greatest outlets to develop youth into all-around productive citizens. Yet and still, some programs do not incorporate these important themes or foundations that youth sports is supposed to stand on.  Parents should really evaluate sports programs before sending their child out to play.  According to the latest statistics, Only 2% of athletes get a scholarship of any kind to play college sports. Before you sign them up, make sure the program is based more on teaching and development rather than promises of championships and scholarships.

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