With 70% of kids quitting youth sports by the time they are 13 clearly something needs to change. A lot of sports parents and coaches believe that many kids give up on sports because youth sports stop being fun! After all, it’s hard to enjoy doing something two, three or even four times a week if you don’t actually like doing it, right? So here’s a crazy idea—what if we made sports fun again? What if we stripped away the trainers and high-powered travel tournaments, the 6-week sports camps and latest equipment and just made do with what was left—a great game. Maybe we could all stand to play a few more pick-up games and remind ourselves that playing sports should, and is, a fun time!
Here are 3 reasons why pick-up games are awesome:
1. No coaches and no officials means the players have to work it out themselves.
Safe or out? Foul or fair? In or out of bounds? When there are no coaches and officials watching every move they make youth athletes have to play by a sports code of honor (which hopefully we as parents, coaches and officials have done a good job teaching them!). Odds are two players are going to disagree over a play sooner or later but there can only be one outcome; how they figure it out is up to them. This kind of problem-solving is a valuable lesson that will come in handy many times in an athlete’s life.
2. Pick-up games are based on intrinsic motivation.
When there are no parents or coaches pushing a youth athlete to run faster, rebound quicker, keep the ball moving and so forth (you know, all that moving and sweating that comes with playing a youth sport) the only one pushing that player is his or herself. That kind of intrinsic motivation is usually what separates the good from the great athletes. They push themselves because they want to and not because someone is hounding them to do it. Pick-up games are going to move as fast or as slow as the players want them to but the very fact that the kids are happy to play without a coach hustling them along, meaning they play because they love to, is a pretty good sign!
3. Minimum pressure, maximum fun.
Some pick-up games can get really competitive really quickly and other times no one even bothers to keep score. No matter how competitive the players may be they’re playing without the growing pressure to perform that is becoming more and more common in youth sports. While there is nothing wrong with wanting your child to do well in sports, treating a 7 year old like a Division 1 college athlete is a lot of pressure for a young player to handle! Pick-up games don’t have that kind of built-in pressure because there are no coaches or parents to impress; it’s just about having a good time.
So when was the last time you played a pick-up game? Maybe we’d have happier sports parents and more youth athletes if we all played simply because we loved to play sports! A pick-up game is a great way to remind yourself just how fun sports can be.