I recently watched a great spoken word video written and performed by a high school student about the purpose of learning that got me thinking about engagement of youth in sport. What is it that young people are looking for that would keep them engaged? How do we as coaches create meaningful engagement to reduce drop out in sport participation? In cross country skiing in Canada, this is vitally important. Why is that so many of our young promising athletes get to the end of their participation in sport at the end of high school? What can we do to change this?
Survey research tells us that 'fun' is the most important reason why youth are engaged in sport. #2 on this list is 'skill development'. Thinking about how we best balance fun and skill is of prime importance as a coach of youth sport. Too much fun and kids are engaged but not improving; too much focus on skill development, and sport can become drudgery.
I'm not sure I have many answers today. But I did want to share out a few links to get you thinking as a coach about how to improve engagement with youth. Its vitally important. If 80% of your athletes stop racing at the end of high school, you've got to ask yourself 'why'? The challenge is to create engaging enough learning that when your athletes are done with you as a coach, they are chomping at the bit for the next step after you. This is important with 12-14 year olds, and its important with all youth in sport.