If sports aren’t FUN, what’s the point?
A continued WHS athletic department effort is to provide information about – and insight into – our department’s expectations, philosophies, and approach to education based athletics. Today, we want to address what is, unfortunately, turning out to be a growing issue in athletics: Fun in sports. The idea of having fun has – somehow – been stigmatized. In a culture where competition, camaraderie, and excitement or fun have made up the atmosphere of all levels of sports, somewhere along the line, we’ve lost the fun of it all. We’re not sure exactly when or how it happened, but something changed. In order to make an individual athletic experience as positive as possible, it is imperative we realize that – for our kids, the many types of coaches, and involved parent – simply having fun playing a sport is why we all started playing in the first place. Today we will discuss the idea of having FUN in the world of sport.
It is safe to say that most, if not all, of our student-athletes, coaches, and parents start their athletic experiences from the following point of view: involvement in a sport and/or playing on a team, is fun. Playing, moreso having fun playing, provides the motivation for continued involvement. Be it a coach, athlete, or parent of an athlete, we expend a considerable amount of time with our athletic endeavors.
Currently, the idea of having fun while playing and competing in sports has almost become frowned upon. The joy and love for the sport has slowly seemed to fade away – having fun turned into a serious, business-like attitude. It occurs at different times for all of us. For some, a love for the sport endures well into the later years of life, yet there is a fading emphasis on having fun. For others, because of the constant pressure, involvement ends much earlier than anticipated – athletes get burned-out.
First, let’s consider where the concept of fun left and the business-of-sport started. Sports is now a collision of high stakes and high visibility. Competition has become secondary to the 24 hour media coverage of all types of sporting events; it’s secondary to the billions of dollars of revenue generated by pro, collegiate, and youth sports. And with all of that, throw in the moral, ethical, and societal pressures that many people force on athletes and coaches. All of a sudden, the fun of sport just turned incredibly serious.
As an education-based athletic organization it is our job to resist all of those external, negative pressures. We’ll continue to maintain the perspective of the true goal of education-based athletics; that is, our students will have a positive and meaningful athletic experience, while learning valuable, constructive, life-lessons along the way. With that, having fun is an integral and important aspect for our students, coaches and parents
Let’s be clear – we, in no-way, mean to suggest that we care any less about success. In addition, our professional approach to the administration, coaching and support of our programs is not in jeopardy. Fun has an all-encompassing definition. Let’s make no mistake about it, winning is fun. For our athletes, fun means that we compete hard / that we are focused at practice / that we execute efficiently and with purpose / that we practice hard with the understanding that we are competitors / that we work hard in the weight room, on the field, or the track with our teammates. Fun also means that coaches, students, and parents build positive, meaningful, and caring relationships. In our programs, fun means that we enjoy our time together / that we push through the difficult, challenging times … most importantly, fun means that we value the person, not the player.
The idea that we can have fun in athletics does not detract from competition. Having fun allows us to continue to focus on why we play. It reminds us why we commit to a team and to a sport. And, if our personal motivations stray, focusing on the-fun-of-it-all will help re-center us. We urge the student-athlete to remember – always – that sports are meant to be fun. Competitions will challenge athletes physically, mentally and emotionally; at the end of the day, playing a sport should be fun. Parents, we urge you to do your best to make sure your students remember that sports are fun. When your son or daughter jumps in the car after practice, make it a point to ask “did you have fun today?” While we hope that the answer is “yes,” we all know that there will be times when “no” is the answer. That’s where all of us can draw on our own experiences. Use that moment as an opportunity to talk about taking time to reflect, then discuss, and then move forward.
It is our hope that, more often than not, our kids, coaches and parents are having fun while involved in our activities. Having fun has to remain at the top of our list of reasons as to why we continue to compete.
Finally, Amanda Visek, associate professor at George Washington University completed research on what she and her colleagues call the fun integration theory. One of the more significant pieces of research that the study relied on was an answer to the question: What makes sports fun? With over 80 different general categories selected, the youth sports participants responded in many ways. Below is a table showing the 81 fun determinants and their rankings. (Where they rank on the list may surprise you.) The higher an answer is ranked, the more common it was as a response. The lower the rank, the less important it was to students.
Here they are:
At the end of the day, it is the adults job to keep everything in perspective. Let’s make sure we all approach each practice, game, and team event with the idea that having fun is not wrong. In fact, having fun should be the main reason for showing up.
Thanks for your time, have a great day!