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Is having “fun” bad for Sport Performance?

When you relish your childhood memories, you might remember those days where you used to play hide and seek or seven stones and ball or Rat-A-Tat in parks throughout the day in summer holidays. Nowadays, the Gen Z and Alpha are mostly dependent on either technology or too occupied with their hectic schedule of early specialisation in one of the sports.

Being a sportsperson in this generation takes a toll on parents with everything being commercial, requiring huge amount of money for pursuing the sport competitively. The amount of money and time invested often leads to high expectations from parents in terms of their child’s performance. On the other hand, the athlete often tends to create a pressure on themselves due to a structured environment and the lack of opportunities of their “free time”, where they are not judged on their performance and where they can play without the pressure of performing well or winning.

Being a youth athlete comes with a lot of challenges for parents eliciting doubtful questions like; whether they should continue to invest on their child’s sport if they are not performing well; till how long they should wait to know whether their child should specialise in that specific sport or play another sport at which he/she might be good at and so on.

When I suggest to the parents to let their child have “fun” in their sport, they respond to this sentence by saying “if our child will have fun, then how will they perform”. However, having “fun” is a subjective term, defined differently by all of us. But the key here is, that enjoyment in the sport leads to a better performance! It is not necessary that an athlete should be sad or portray seriousness if they have lost a match, they can even smile if they have lost the match badly. Smiling during the match does not determine that the athlete is not serious about the game, it is a sign of enjoyment in their sport. Youth athletes should be happy playing their sport, it should not be confused with their seriousness towards their sport.

What should Parents do to make sport “fun” for their child athlete?

Treat “Sports” as a game:

In today’s world, parents spend a huge amount of money on their kid’s sport. The financial investment on the child athlete is not a business investment with an assumption of a return on investment. The sport should be distinguished from the investment and should be treated as a “sport” with a primary agenda of having fun and enjoying the healthy competition.

Detach yourself from game-time coaching:

When your child athlete participates in tournaments or in practise time, you should just let them play. Over-coaching during their matches, can result into mistakes often leading to a poor performance. Using encouragement and focusing on their strengths during their tournaments, instead of focusing on their areas of improvement would facilitate the child’s confidence over their training, allowing them to give their best.

Separate your agenda from your child’s agenda:

There are several reasons for a child to participate in a sport activity. They enjoy the social aspect where they get to make friends, engage with the team, develop inter-personal and intra-personal skills. Your agenda as a parent, might be different than your child. The recognition of your child’s purpose in participating in sport should be given importance. You must recognise that they are the ones who are participating in the sport, and not you.

Focus on the process of execution and their overall development:

Our society emphasises on the results and performance of the athletes, but results are achieved by following certain processes and by enjoying that journey. Youth athletes should be taught to focus on one point, one shot, one stroke, one race at a time and not the outcome. Focusing on the development of their skills and their overall learning would be a stepping stone in achieving the results.

Communicate with your child athlete and ask them the right questions.

The questions you ask and the discussions you have with your child athlete helps them in understanding your expectations from them. For example: If your question to them is “Did you win?”, the child will understand that winning is more important in the game. If you communicate with them by reinforcing the right values, it will encourage them to become skilled and better players with an understanding of the ability to handle successes and failures positively.

Reinforce positive behaviour:

Child athletes often mimic your behaviour during competitions. So, your emotions and reactions towards the opponent, a close match or their bad shot are learnt by them in shaping their attitude as a sportsperson in their life. Staying calm and composed during their tournaments would help in reinforcing positive behaviour for your child athlete.

Facilitate your child athlete to detach self esteem based on their performances

It is of utmost importance to make your child understand that they are a person first. The achievements in sport should not define their self esteem. Detaching their self worth from their number of wins and losses would facilitate in improving their confidence over themselves. Sport is a part of their life, judgement of their performance in tournaments should not determine “who they are”.

“Sport is what they play, not who they are”

The child’s journey in the sport will be longer by maintaining his/her intrinsic motivation with the enjoyment levels towards their sport. Encourage your child athletes by asking them questions like “Did you enjoy your game?”, simultaneously instilling good values in them to become a good sportsperson.

ProHealth Asia and its team of expert sports psychologist are available to provide assistance to parents and children to cope with the mental pressures of a budding sports career.

Author by Sanskriti Chhabra, Oct 9, 2019,

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