The Fun Principle stated that as "we take the fun out of physical activities, we take the kids out of them" (Martens, 1996, p. 306). Martens said that learning should be enjoyable and that when winning is pursued in the extreme, it produces behaviors that destroy children's self-worth and rob them of fun. However, adults frequently violate this principle by over organizing, constantly instructing and evaluating, over drilling and routinizing the learning of skills, replacing unstructured play with calisthenics, and using physical activity as a form of punishment. Martens noted that the irony in youth sports is that "we turn young people off of the very thing we want to turn them on to" (p. 309). If lifelong participation in physical activity is the goal, then the emphasis should shift from the outcome to the quality of experiences, according to Martens. (Brady, 2004, p. 48)
Differences in Youth Who Withdraw from Sports
In their study, Butcher, Lindner and Johns (2002) identify four different dropout types of youth who withdraw from sports. These include: a: elite competitors; b: sampler dropouts; c: low level participants; d: high level participants. The elite competitors possess significantly different ranks from the other three dropout types.. The main reasons the elite competitors related for their withdrawal from sports included: "too much pressure to perform well, injury, needing time for studying, and the coach" (Butcher, Lindner and Johns, 2002). The second most important reason the sample dropouts gave for their withdrawal from sports reflected their perceptions of their competence in sports to be poor; that for some reason or another, they were not quite good enough. For the low and high level participants, other sport, as well as non-sport, activities ranked second and third in importance. From the study by Butcher, Lindner and Johns (2002), one could conceivably consider that the classification of a youth participating in a sport, which in turn appears to denote his/her dedication to the sport, contributes to his/her decision whether to continue and for withdrawal from sport. A youth's classification could also contribute to whether or not the youth considers components/factors involved in the sport as "fun."
2.3 Coach and/or Team Influence in American society, Crone (1999) notes, particular social situations more likely stimulate more emphasis on winning. These include "coaches and athletes of football and basketball teams, the size of schools, and schools that offer athletic scholarships." Consequently, coaches, generally realize the amount of emphasis their school places on winning prior to their acceptance of a particular coaching position. Because of the inherent pressure to win in their positions, along with the damaging consequences when their team loses, coaches routinely attempt to control as many variables as possible involved in winning. In turn, perceptions of their coach by youth participating in sports does in fact, impact their decisions whether to participate in for withdrawal from sport.
The influence of leadership, particularly from coaches, serves as one interesting reason youth relate for the reason they withdrew from a sport. In the investigation of youth sport attrition, Orlick (1973; cited by Hedstrom and Gould, 2004, p. 23) found athletes expressed concern with how competition was repeatedly over emphasized within the sport. Youth experienced stress and frustration when they did not get to play to gain playing experience or the coach/leader did not afford them the opportunity to learn appropriate skills. In fact, most sports participants who withdrew "blamed" their coach for their withdrawal.
Gould, Feltz, Horn and Weiss (1982; cited by Hedstrom and Gould, 2004, p. 23) pointed out that youth reported their coach not being fun as a major motive for their decision to withdraw from sport.
Hardy (1986; cited by Brady, 2004, p. 46) concluded regarding the at times "ambivalent and paradoxical nature of youth sport": that competition in and of itself does not constitute anything wrong. What Hardy perceives as wrong, is the way adults sometimes use children's competition to further or achieve their own goals and/or aims. Competition becomes wrong, Hardy concurs, when adults plays emphasis upon winning, regardless of the goals of the youth and/or what winning at all cost, costs the youth.
Apache (2006), who examined the development of the Youth Sports Behavior Assessment System (YSBAS), relates the following nine behavioral categories evolving from the evaluating the Coaching Behavior Assessment System (CBAS):
Positive Reinforcement -- a positive reaction either verbally or by Nonverbal technique in response to a desirable and specific performance by a single player or group of players.
Mistake Reinforcement -- Encouraging comments made to a player or group of players following a mistake. Emphasis is on encouraging player(s) to do better and not be concerned about error.
Positive Technical Instruction -- Comments made to a player or players on technical skills or playing strategy not elicited by a mistake. Example, during game-play a parent might state to their child or to other players command suggestions indicating their location on the field or their attention to a certain player such as, "watch number 7," "you are playing too far out, move in closer," and "keep your arms up."
Mistake Technical Instruction -- Comments made to a player or players providing technical instruction following a mistake. Example, after a ballplayer allows a hit ball to pass under his glove one might hear a parent state "turn your glove over and place it squarely on the ground."
Punishment -- Negative comments directed at a player or players following a mistake. Intent of comments is to express disapproval of player's action and to personally berate.
Keeping Control -- Comments. made in response to players misbehaving on sidelines, or to the inattentiveness of the players during the game.
General Encouragement -- Comments and/or nonverbal communications (i.e. clapping) made to a player or players towards nonspecific support and encouragement of their performance. Example, "good hustle," "way to go Blackhawks."
Negative Comments -- Negative comments or nonverbal displays towards opposing players.
Negative Comments to Coaches or Referees -- Negative comments made to coaches and/or referees during a game due to any circumstance. Comments made towards other parents are and included in this category. (Apache, 2006, ¶ s 7-16)
Coaches cited a youth's negative self-talk and/or the practice of him/her berating his/her teammates when one makes a mistakes during competitions as indicators of low team morale. Scanlan et al. (1993; cited by Gilbert, Gilbert and Trudel, 2001, p. 29) note the following coaching strategies that when utilized, help combat low team morale and possibly deter youth from withdrawing from the sport:
Coaches record developmental statistics for their athletes, such as number of passes, number of shots on net, or number of positional rule infractions. Such statistics provide objective measures of the athletes' progress that do not depend on the outcome of the game. For example, only a few athletes will record goals during a soccer match, but everyone on the team can record a pass or a shot on net. This strategy gives all athletes (regardless of skill or level of personal development) an opportunity to experience success in sports. It can also have important positive consequences for their self-esteem and level of enjoyment, which in turn influence their desire to continue participating in sports (Scanlan et al., 1993). (Gilbert, Gilbert and Trudel, 2001, p. 29)
Another effective strategy for improving team morale is to schedule social events for the team (e.g., pizza and movie nights, camping trips, visits to local amusement parks). These types of team gatherings can help promote team cohesion, a sense of affiliation, and a positive team atmosphere, all of which contribute to participant enjoyment and motivation (Boyd et al., 1997; Petlichkoff, 1993; Smith and Smoll, 1997).
Almost all coaches in this study by Gilbert, Gilbert and Trudel (2001, p. 29) related concerns regarding "sudden, unexplainable decreases in individual or team performance," described as a "lull" or "drop" in performance.
These decreases, which may also may influence a use decision to withdraw from a sport, usually evolve from challenges with individual techniques and/or team tactics. Coaches usually utilized the strategies address these problems, noting that the athlete is not physically able to properly execute a particular skill, or he/she is in a mental rut and cannot exert the necessary concentration and/or effort. To discourage youth from withdrawing from the sport, coaches routinely utilized different strategies to improve the youth's skill development and enhance his/her motivation and interest. This strategy proposes to permit athletes to temporarily get out of routine training procedures that the youth may consider to be too routine and/or no longer fun. In an ego-goal perspective, coaches, parents, and teachers may defined success "normative criteria, interpersonal competition, and the demonstration of superiority over others."
Contrary to this concept, in a Mastery Motivational Climate, " the criteria for success in a task-goal perspective are self-referenced, with the predominant emphasis on improvement, learning, and skill mastery." Nicholls (1989; cited by Brady, 2004, p. 48) argued that whether…