Children’s Motives for Playing Sport
Thank you to those who read or commented on the last article, and please continue to comment, even if you do not agree or have a different view. That is how we learn, grow or look for a better way of doing things, we need to always self-assess and reflect.
This article will focus on children in sport in terms of what motivates them to participate in organised sport. Generally they can be characterised into three separate categories, Image Conscious Socialisers, Competence-Orientated Participants, and Reluctant Participants. There is no correct category the child should fit into, and there may be some overlap. The point of this article is to discuss what may motivate a child to join an organised club, or sport, and once identified, suggest some strategies to keep the children motivated.
Image Conscious Socialisers
Image Conscious Socialisers – studies suggest that this category makes up about 40% of the total of why children participate in sport. This group are looking for approval from others, coaches, parents and peers. This group could be described as being self-conscious, and motivated by the external reinforcements, acceptance, belongingness, and acknowledgement from others. They generally are keen to follow the team ethos, or will accept the leaders and coaches philosophies. I find that the majority of these children are in tune with the team environment. They tend to be great observers and process information in terms of what will conform to the team. They may be less interested in increasing task difficulty, or refining motor skills. However, they will most likely engage in skill development if you can put it is a team context. They are the ones who like to have enjoyable training sessions with, jokes, many different games, and just want to be with some friends. It is critical with this group to always be engaging with them on a more social level, than a sports skill and development orientation. Try not to over emphasis the skills process, merely hide it in a game, and keep the verbal reinforcement high.
Competence Orientated Participants
Competence Orientated Participants – approximately 35% these children make up why children may participate in sport. This group is more likely to take their sporting interests into later life. They are motivated by skill development, becoming faster, stronger, fitter and enhancing their skills to get gain these attributes. We should not fall into the trap that this is the category that we want all children to fall into. They may have high internal factors motivating them, to be the best, fastest etc, but may not have the same level of social consciousness as those who are more aware of team cohesion. They may not understand why everyone does not want to be the best. They may be self-centred. Although, it is rare to see one of these categories in the extreme, they tend to be slightly at left or right of one of theses categories. These children need to be engaged in the development of skills, and altering their task difficulty. They may become bored if there is no progression in training, intensity, duration or skill. So keep developing their skills and fitness, but make sure they are aware of the team or others.
Reluctant Participants – they make up around 25% of why children participate in sport. These children are more than likely to be there through parent or peer pressure. They are more likely to drop out of sport. To me these are the ones we need to be aware of the most. We as coaches/administrators need to identify these children and work with them, and their parents. They are less likely to want to train, practise or may seem reluctant to even play on “game day”. We need to find something that will attract them back, time after time, through enhancing their perceived experience. These children may have a poor perception about their competence level, inability to interact socially or come from “different” socio-economic and socio-demographic backgrounds. Never underestimate what factors economic and demographic environments have on a child’s experience, health, and development. These children maybe the ones who do not want to play as their parents may not have the finances to buy the “right” gear, membership, and may be afraid of being judged by others. We all start at different levels, not only in sport, but in life, however, we are all the same, and we all deserve understanding. Give extra attention to these children, encourage them more, and really celebrate their achievements, and make sure to tell mum/dad and the rest of team, how well they are doing. They can be more venerable to comments others will take as less threatening. Be aware of the discourse you use.