Fun Factors

June 3, 2016

It is well documented that the No. 1 reason youth from age 6 through high school participate in sports is to have fun. Fun is the outcome they seek most. But what does fun mean to them?

That was the question on my mind as I read the work of George Washington University, Boston College and Georgia Southern University researchers in a paper published in March of 2015 in the Journal of Physical Activity & Health, and as I tried to understand their “four fundamental tenets of fun in youth soccer within 11 fun-dimensions composed of 81 specific fun-determinants.” Eighty-one? I guess my question isn’t so simple to answer.

But, with one-third of youth sports participants dropping out of organized sports participation each year (and as many as 70 percent dropping out by age 13), it’s important we look for answers.

The researchers have developed a “Fun Map” that allows them to see young soccer players’ responses in clusters. They have discovered “social” aspects of participation – for example, team friendships and team rituals – received significantly more favorable responses from the athletes than other aspects.

Top-rated determinants tend to be ...

  • Hanging out with teammates outside of practice or games.

  • Having a group of friends outside of school.

  • Carpooling with teammates to practices and games.

  • Going out to eat as a team.

  • End of season/team parties.

  • Meeting new people.

  • Being a part of the same team year after year.

One of the lead researchers has said independent of this paper that the responses of parents and coaches differ – that their “Fun Maps” don’t match the young players’ – which concerns the researchers, and requires attention by youth sports leaders.

Cheering for Sportsmanship

July 31, 2018

(This blog first appeared on on January 8, 2013.)

I try to start each new school year at the Michigan Interscholastic Press Association summer camp at Michigan State University. I talk briefly about who the MHSAA is and what it does; and then two or three dozen high school newspaper editors and writers ask me questions; and in doing so, they give me clues to what’s going on in our schools and what’s important to our students.

Several years ago, when I opened the session to questions, one young man asked: “Mr. Roberts, what’s your job?” I paused, and then said, “I guess I’m the head cheerleader for high school sports in Michigan.”

So then this precocious student asked: “Okay, what do you cheer for?”  With a briefer pause, this is some of what I said:

  • I cheer for sportsmanship that’s not merely good, but great.

  • I cheer for sportsmanship, not gamesmanship.

  • I cheer for playing by the rules, both the letter and the spirit.

  • I cheer for maximum effort to try to win each and every contest.

  • I don’t cheer for winning at any cost; I do cheer for learning at every opportunity.

  • I cheer for losing with grace and for winning with even greater grace, with humility and modesty.

  • I cheer for the lessons of victory and the even greater lessons of defeat.