Here are three things that will keep kids engaged in their sport for life.
I am Phil Tran, championship-winning high school football and strength coach and NHSSCA Maryland Coach of the Year, with another episode of Sport and Life.
As a high school football coach, a strength coach for girls and boys sports, and as private strength coach, I have learned firsthand the three things that must be present in every sport program to keep kids engaged in their sport.
First, kids need to have fun. Never forget that virtually all the sports kids play are ultimately kids sports. Some sports can be hyper-competitive, be high stakes, and desperately needed by some in desperate situations to vastly improve their lot in life. As much as some sports can be a vehicle for free college and/or life changing generational wealth, never forget why kids play these sports in the playground during elementary school recess in the first place.
These are kids games and they are fun. They need to be fun for kids stay engaged. Coach your sports with cheerful, childlike enthusiasm and innocent, childlike humor.
Second, kids need to make friends through their sports. You will certainly encounter an outlier here and there who are so completely driven and focused on their sport, obsessed with winning championship rings, and a bit disinterested socially that making friends is not a primary factor as to why they play sports. I was one of those athletes in my youth when it came to football. However, the vast majority of kids play sports to spend quality time with their friends among other factors.
As a football-first guy, it took me awhile as a coach to comprehend the fact that for some kids, football was their second or even their third sport. How could a sport so demanding on time, commitment, and discipline be considered a second or third sport? Yet it is and that is okay.
Speaking as a football coach, there will be lacrosse-first, baseball-first, basketball-first, and hockey-first athletes who will signup for football simply because all their friends are doing it and they want to spend time with their friends. I can think of much worse activities kids do just to “spend time with their friends.”
Use the fact that you have kids in your particular sport program who are there for their friends more so than for the sport and use that to your advantage. Build unbreakable team chemistry with your male or female athletes. Build an attentive audience for your most important role as a coach. Here is where you can truly maximize your influence.
The third and most enduring reason why kids play sports is to learn useful life skills and life lessons. Sport, in and of itself, does not teach character. There is nothing inherent about throwing a football, hitting a baseball, perfecting a slap slot, running fast, swimming fast, or lifting heavy weight that will make you a better man or woman. If you are a morally deficient person, lifting heavier weight will just make you a physically stronger, still morally deficient person.
However, a coach who is intentional about character development and, for the Christian schools where I have coached, faith formation, can effectively use sports as a conduit to teach character and faith in real life. In my experience, there is no better vehicle to teach character and faith than competitive youth athletics. This is provided that you have a coaching staff that is serious and intentional about teaching life as much as they are about coaching sport.
Make sure your kids are having fun, making friends, and learning life lessons. If they are, you will have a lasting, impactful sport program.
I learned all of this through firsthand experience as a practitioner in the field and through the 3Dimensional Coaching program in collaboration with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. Learn more and become a certified coach at www.3dinstitute.com.
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Until next time. Thank you.