How many times have you asked your son/ daughter that question and wondered whether the answer you got is really true? As it turns out, you can actually ask a different question to get a more accurate answer. And as a parent or coach, it is important to know the real answer!
A wonderful post by the Aspen Institute’s Project Play called “Ask kids what they want” cites a lot of great research into why kids play (or quit) sports…
Why is it important to know if kids had fun?
The Aspen Institute’s Project Play work is important to me because:
As a parent, I want my own kids to realize all the lifelong benefits of playing sports. That means win or lose, fast or slow, strong or weak, skilled or not, I need to understand what will keep them interested in sports for the long term. And as it turns out, according to the research cited in the Aspen Institute's post: “9 out of 10 children say ‘FUN’ is the main reason they participate in sports.”
Also, as a coach in sport [lacrosse] with relatively low participation numbers in our town, I always want to (a) engage more kids and get them to try our sport, and (b) make sure those kids we do engage want to continue playing after trying it. And how do we keep them interested in continuing to play and develop? FUN says the research!
...So I have worked hard to try to make practices, activities, and games into what I would call FUN, but do the kids think it’s fun?
We all know this. Sometimes it’s on purpose but often not, especially with a question like “did you have fun?” So why would you have reason to doubt their answer?...
“Yes, I had fun”:
Is (s)he just saying this to make me happy?
Is this just what (s)he thinks their coach or parents want to hear?
Maybe the kid is just trying to avoid the inquisition that is sure to follow if (s)he say “no”?
“No, I didn’t have fun”:
The scoreboard says we lost... But does losing really = not fun??
The practice/ activity/ game was great except for one negative thing that happened towards the end of it... But wasn't the rest of it still great??
The kid is disappointed in his/ her own poor performance (or perceives his parents or coach to be disappointed in his/ her poor performance).
There are probably many other reasons “did you have fun?” might not yield the most accurate answer, but those are the main ones that I have seen with my own kids.
So how do we get the truth?
“Do you want to do this again?” That’s the question I ask now. And I find that the answers I get give me a much better assessment of whether I succeeded or failed in making the experience FUN.
If we lost, but kids want to come back to see if we can do better next time, I know I did my job.
If they’re feeling bad about a single, negative event (bad call by the official, bad foul by the other team, missed opportunity by themselves or their teammates, etc)... but they want to come back next time to see if they can do better, I know I did my job.
If they are disappointed in their own poor performance, but want to come back next time to improve, I know I did my job.
“9 out of 10 children say ‘FUN’ is the main reason they participate in sports.” And I am pretty sure that if they want to come back again next time, that means they had FUN.
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