Soccer and youth sports generally are best enjoyed when the organizers and players’ parents remember what the children want. First and foremost, children want to have fun while participating in sports. In fact, surveys have shown that having fun is a primary reason why children are motivated to participate in sports. In addition to having fun, children want play to be fair, be involved in the action, have the play be competitive, and have the play involve a lot of scoring. Notice that winning is not high on any list of reasons given by youth as to why they play sports.
In addition to fun, youth sports provide other benefits including a vital opportunity for kids to be physically active. Being physically active promotes a healthier body composition with stronger bones, greater muscular strength, and better endurance. Participation in youth sports also teaches kids a variety of motor skills such as running, jumping, kicking, and throwing. Moreover, physical activity has also been linked to improved mental outlook and function.
On another level, when a child is ready to participate, sports participation gives the child an opportunity to develop self-confidence in their skills, self-esteem, and an enhanced sense of fair play. At the same time, sports also provide an opportunity to learn social skills and make friendships -- many of which will last throughout adulthood. Playing also provides the opportunity to feel part of a team and experience the challenge of competition.
Although youth sports do provide many benefits, sports experiences can be devastatingly injurious to young people, physically, psychologically, and emotionally, if handled irresponsibly. Youth sports programs must be developmentally appropriate instead of being mini versions of elite adult programs. Too much pressure takes the fun out of sports and can lead to kids feeling stressed and anxious. Win-at-all-costs mentality can hurt a child’s self-esteem and self-efficacy.
The youth sport coach can have a dramatic influence on young athletes’ development and enjoyment of sport. A positive attitude along with encouragement, effective skill instruction, and avoiding punishment is the best way for a youth coach to give young athletes more satisfaction with their teammates and season, higher levels of motivation, and greater increase in self-esteem. Win-loss records of the team seemed not to impact athletes’ perceptions of satisfaction with coach and season.
The intramural program of the Rockville Centre Soccer Club is a developmental program. Intramural coaches are provided developmentally appropriate skills to introduce to intramural players. In addition, trainers are used to assist intramural coaches in the Under 6 program. Trainers are also used for supplemental pay-for-play programs offered to Under 7 players (First Steps), Under 8 players (Second Steps) and Under 9 players (Next Steps). Further developmental opportunities are provided through Kids Teaching Kids, Community Camp, and indoor training. All of these programs are designed with the primary focus of player development.