Big Kids?

I’m sure we’ve all heard the phrase “Children are not mini adults”.

I’ve been mulling over the idea that maybe “Adults are big children”.

Here’s why.

Across many sports and physical activities it seems the number of young children having a go are pretty good. I’d suggest that we are becoming increasingly good at kiddy-fying our activities to appeal to children. Smaller teams, more time playing, focusing on fun and inclusion. In some forward thinking sports the removal of publishing league tables (maybe aimed more at the adults involved with youth sport) strikes me as a brilliant step in ensuring the activity is an end in itself regardless of the outcome. (This is certainly not me suggesting competition is bad, merely that traditional adult approaches to it can be)

In the UK (just in case anyone further afield stumbles over this) there is a reported drop off in sports participation around 15 years of age. To me it seems that this coincides with the point at which junior sport ends and senior sport begins. With this the kiddy-fying stops and the focus on winning leagues begins. There is also the issue of physicality in some sports – boys against men – to coin a phrase.

Why not then, at this point, switch our initial statements? Maybe if we kiddy-fied adult sport more people would keep playing? We spend the formative years making our sport fit our young people only then to stop this and say once you’re an adult you have to fit our sport and if you don’t maybe it’s not for you. A fairly arrogant culture to adopt. It hardly seems rocket science to suggest that more adults (old and young) would play sport if we made it fit their needs in the way we make junior sport fit the needs of young people.

A great hashtag I came across on twitter #countsmilesnotgoals (thanks @gingdavis77) sums this up. 50% of players will be disappointed 100% of the time if winning is the focus. Now, there are lots of adults who commit to one or two sports and take part religiously (myself included) and for whom traditional approaches work. We don’t need to worry about them. We need to focus on the massive number who used to but don’t now and make sure we arrest the drop off. Whatever drew them to activity in the first place clearly worked so maybe sticking with that is the answer?

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