May 26, 2023

Keeping the fun in practice and conditioning

According to the Study Regarding the Motives of Children Participation in Sports Activities, one of the main reasons why children start participating in organized sports is because they want to have fun. 
However, The Washington Post says that almost 70 percent of kids quit sports by age 13. One of the most commonly cited reasons was ‘it’s not just fun anymore’. 
The fact that children turn away from sports at a time when it benefits their physical and mental health the most is something that trainers can easily address. 
This blog talks about everything that trainers can do to make practice and conditioning fun and help young athletes optimize their performance. 
Continue reading to know more. 
So, what is ‘fun’?
The perception of fun for an athlete and the trainer’s understanding may differ. That’s why it is important to understand what makes sports fun before we talk about how trainers can make practice sessions fun for athletes.
A person has fun when they are positively challenged and feel satisfied with their performance while participating in an activity. 
The concept of fun is backed by science. According to the Journal of Physical Activities and Health, there are 11 fun dimensions in youth sports. These dimensions, according to the study, are direct determinants of participation and commitment of youth toward sports. 
Some of these include:
·      Being a good sport
·      Trying hard
·      Game time support
·      Team friendships and rituals 
One of the most important dimensions is ‘positive coaching’. 
Let’s look at how trainers can enhance the experience of athletes during practice and conditioning sessions.
Ways trainers can keep the ‘fun’ in youth sports
Every trainer struggles with keeping their practice sessions from getting boring and their team members from losing interest and dropping out of sports. These practical and no-fail tips will help you keep your sessions fun and improve your team’s learning outcomes:
 Know your team
The first and most important step in putting the fun back in your sessions is to get to know your team. This is especially important because every trainer has to deal with different personalities. Due to their training or genetics, some athletes can experience fun easily and become more focused on the way, some may struggle with enjoying the practice sessions. 
To do this, spend quality time with your team members outside the sessions to figure out their personalities and what motivates them to have fun. This takes time but is definitely possible and helps make changes in the training program easier.
 Make your sessions challenging 
Trainers know that athletes love to beat each other at games and get better scores. One of the easiest ways to induce fun in conditioning and practice is to challenge your team.
This competition makes them eager to perform and brings out the best in them. However, the key to using competition is to keep the team environment light. Doing this will allow your team members to focus on practice more and become better at their game eventually. Another important thing is to match the challenges with their abilities. For instance, some challenges may be too much for inexperienced players and for some, they may not be great enough. 
Induce variety in your sessions
One thing that makes the youth bored is repetition. When you conduct practice and conditioning sessions in the same format always, they develop what is known as ‘muscle memory’. They start going through the sessions automatically and without any thought, leading to boredom in the long run. 
While you need to repeat the basics, you must induce variety creatively in all the sessions. Here is how you can deliver each session differently:
  • Try shorter sessions once in a while with high-energy activities. 
  • At least a few sessions in a month must comprise only drills.
  • In some sessions reduce the amount of play and encourage discussions and talking. 
  • Offer unstructured sessions once in a while. This will take the predictability away and help athletes have fun. 
Emphasize that winning isn’t everything
One of the things that take the fun out of games is the fear of winning and losing. And as the trainer, you have the power to free your team from this thought. 
While it may sound difficult, teaching your athletes that failure is a great way to learn from one’s mistakes and do one’s best each time can gradually help them broaden their outlook. Whether your team wins or loses, celebrate each game. This is a great way to let the athletes have fun and reflect on their performance. 
Help athletes unwind and build friendships
When your athletes have something to look forward to at the end of each session, they end up enjoying the sessions even more. One way to do it is to conduct team-building activities. This way you allow them to break the ice and become friends.
You can also take them for fun post-session activities like get-togethers over ice cream and pizza. These could be opportunities for the players to share things about themselves that they cannot do during formal sessions. 
Trainers who feel that practice and conditioning sessions should be all work and no play are missing out on letting their athletes’ personalities shine. Once you start making your sessions fun, you will begin to see how your team transforms. Whatever your sport, Youth Sports Index helps you connect with top-notch young talent in your location. Register on our website or download our app on your Android/iOS device today to expand your reach.
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