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There's plenty of data out there to suggest reasons why young players stop playing a sport. At around the ages of 15 and 16, often the main reason is: "It stops being fun".
This is a rod to beat all coaches who can't hold onto their players. But this is only a small part of the reason.
Also, national governing bodies have been trying for years to come up with better solutions to desperately plug the leaks. New initiatives abound and social media is revved up - often aimed at "fun".
But, this all misses the point. There is a teenage journey we have all experienced, and sometimes more than once if we have had own crop of siblings eating us out of house and home. "Fun" changes. Also teenage sporting motivation changes. Some teenagers want to test themselves, prove their worth on the pitch or court. Other teenagers want to drop out, doing something different, start on an alternative path.
These natural urges cannot be confined, defined or manipulated by coaches or the sport itself.
Our challenge is to understand the landscape that retains those who want to progress. Plus, create environments which keep the door open for them to return or even join.
How do you think you would change your sports offering? Or is it doing a good job already and we need to take those lessons into other sports?
Several reasons I feel that youngsters stop playing sport when they hit 15/16. I am a Head of PE and have also started up a Basketball club 6 years ago.
I could go go on and on. I am starting my Blog over the next few weeks which will address some solutions to the issues raised that have worked in my community.
Interesting article. Motivation of players regardless of age is an interesting point. Think it might be worth discussing this in a bit of detail.
The RFU focus is fun up in the mini and youth but where does this leave the player who wants to succeed (in their eyes)?
What about the player where sport is the thing they excel at, compared to academic stuff? Success in sport is often understated as participation seems to be more of a focus. Maybe this means those players who excel in sport see their skills as under-valued?
A few years ago I wrote this article on the subject of player drop off in the youth / colts age groups. Not sure anything has changed in the time between. http://findrugbynow.com/2014/12/colts-rugby-players-gone/
I coach several different grassroots football teams. One of them (under 15's going into under 16's) trained twice a week (one session was Futsal) last season, and played matches on Sunday afternoons. It became apparent over the course of the year that lots of them were enjoying the Futsal most and attendance for matches was dropping off. They were all asked at the end of the season what they wanted to do as under 16's and the result is they are not entering a League and are going to only play Futsal. I will continue to coach them once a week and will aim to arrange around ten Futsal friendlies during the course of the year. This seems to be the perfect solution for the group in their (very busy) GCSE year. I think this is a good example of a team that would have folded but, with a little thinking outside the box, and responding to what the young people want, they will carry on enjoying sport.
This is a MUST read reply. Can other sports or teams follow this example?
I think the key is that the choice was offered, and they chose Futsal. Other teams might choose differently.
Therefore we must offer alternatives?
In my sport, archery, we are promoting a transition definition between archers who participate for fun, whom we call "recreational archers" and archers who participate to compete and possibly win, whom we call "competitive archers." When an athlete's motivation is "fun" than you cannot ask them to do a boring, repetitive drill and expect them to comply, they will not. A serious competitive archer will eat up such drills if we can just connect the drill with an improvement in their shooting, in their mind (not just the coaches).
Athletes will quit if they are recreational athletes being asked to function as competitive ones, that is they are misclassified. A recreational archer would never stop shooting because it was no longer fun, because their activities are designed around having fun (including some degree of choice on their part).
Working within professional football academy structures I have encountered several experiences involving motivation of athletes and drop out of the sport. One area of interest for me is how the information being shared with the athlete, which could be 7 different coaches over the seven years within the academy system, and how this could either motivate or de-motivate the athlete or create psychological issues and pressure, which is unhelpful to long-term athlete development. Has anyone experienced problems of this nature or has solutions? Currently working within an academy structure where we have planned the feedback and language for each coach to deliver feedback more collectively.
Andy Edwards Reply: Great solution !
Rather than focus on competition and what you the Coach wanted, you have focused on the young people's desires.
I am a PE teacher and hockey coach outside of school.
From a school view we offer a recreational and competitive option so supporting the students to chose their path. As their is and always will be a very small % that just won't take part not matter the sport or pathway way. I have a few girls this year who have hated sport until this year where we played "4 way volleyball" and "nuby" and love it! Made up games, very no traditional, but got them active and not they go for walks and play badminton outside of school.
In my club we mix abilities until U12, and then again with women's club training. This is then the case of the coach providing the right coaching environment for all to achieve that they want. I take the women's club training, and whilst difficult sometimes to get it right from those who want to improve and play higher level to those who just want to play for fun! However never impossible, and it's a great feeling when they get things out of the it.
All about communication between the athletes/players and you as a coach, what motivates them and how you can support this.
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