Children participate in youth sport for many reasons, and their motivations change with age and experience. Understanding why your child participates can be extremely helpful in shaping your goals and expectations for them in sport.

When children are asked why they participate in sport, their most common responses are to gain physical competence, be with friends, and to have fun.

Just as it is important to understand why children participate, it is also important to understand why children stop participating. When researchers ask children why they drop out, common responses include: sports are no longer fun, there is no longer enough time to pursue sport, they are feeling too much pressure from parents, and there is an overemphasis on winning. When children drop out of sport, it is likely because their original expectations and goals were not met. In an effort to protect their children from unmet goals, parents may unintentionally demonstrate more controlling and indulgent behaviors – causing less intrinsic motivation in their children.

Additionally, issues may arise when parents believe (or expect) that their children are going to “go all the way” by earning a college scholarship or playing professionally. Although a select few will achieve this level of success, the odds of your child competing in sport beyond adolescence are not high.

Youth sport participation is typically initiated because parents want their children to experience positive developmental outcomes. Youth sport provides a family context that has been associated with positive outcomes for youth, but sport itself does not lead to these outcomes. In some contexts, negative outcomes may also arise from participation in organized youth sport.

Remember, it is the way sport is structured, delivered, and experienced that impacts children’s development. This is a process created and driven by administrators, coaches, peers, and parents!