Did you have fun?

Running, managing and maintaining a successful youth section at any voluntary sports club is a challenge. The first challenge is to define what makes the set-up successful.

  • Is winning junior leagues success?
  • Is having huge numbers of players success?
  • Is helping players gain representative honours success?
  • Is providing a pathway into senior participation success?
  • Is it possible to achieve all of the above?

In an ideal world it probably is.

The reality for many clubs though is that maybe this is not possible. Have a look at the diagram below.


(Thanks to @drmartintoms)

All clubs have a capacity whether this is due to facility constraints, volunteer numbers or myriad other factors. Knowing these is key. If we don’t understand them, we can neither look to overcome them or work effectively within them.

If, for example, a club needs to work within it’s current constraints, developing an ethos where the more experienced or “better” players support the newer or “weaker” ones it is possible to keep both happy and involved. This needs the support and understanding of significant others – parents, administrators etc.

The first question I always get asked when people enquire about junior matches is “Did they win?” My nearest and dearest are stopping asking this question as they gradually realise the answer I give them never includes reference to the result! Psychologists have found that the questions we should ask our children (who are performing at a participation rather than performance level) have no reference to the result…

…“Based on psychological research, the three healthiest statements moms and dads can make as [kids] perform are:

Before the Competition:

Have fun.

Play hard.

I love you.

After the competition:

Did you have fun?

I’m proud of you.

I love you.”


I believe that junior league committees have an important role to play in supporting clubs to support their young players. As long as we are involved in leagues where results and performances are recorded, published and rewarded the first question will always be “Did you win?” Newer, or less able, or less experienced, or younger players will always be marginalised whilst winning is the main goal. Leagues – those whose aim it is to introduce players to their sport – should be focused upon helping clubs to meet the needs of their players: Facilitate opportunities to participate, reduce bureaucracy, and ask “Did you have fun?”

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About the Author: Stephen Pritchard

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