Written by Franceline van de Geer (Special Heroes) and Paul Verschuur (Windesheim University of Applied Sciences) / Netherlands
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How to keep youngsters committed to the sports club?
To answer the question why young people come to a sports club and become a member is not easy. The participation incentives are as diverse as the young people themselves are. The image of the sport and the club undoubtedly plays a major role. In this blog, we describe three types of additional activities that are important to keep young athletes connected to the club.
Young people want to experience success, be tough and strong, move well, be able to do something very well, win, be proud of themselves, belong, have fun, gain self-confidence, to mention but a few. How nice is it if you can gain all those experiences in a beautiful context? This context also first consists of fellow athletes, mostly peers and trainers, coaches, supervisors, parents and all other people involved in the club. For example, the atmosphere and look of all the facilities: the field, the clubhouse, and the changing rooms certainly are very important for the youngsters to stay connected to the club for a longer period.
Enjoying sports is much more pleasant if it is your „spot“ where you spend many hours every week. Every sports club and everyone within the club pays attention to make young people feel themselves safe and comfortable. This should not be a new aspect in the club’s policy. It is my experience and firm conviction that a rich offer of what I would like to call ‘additional activities’ is precisely what commits young people to the club, whose success in whatever form takes a little longer. Young people who are not immediately tough and strongly influenced by beautiful movement, young people who cannot or do not win easily. As a club, you are recommended that you also invest in additional activities.
Three types of additional activities
Many sports clubs are still so-called mono-sports clubs. You can do one sport only; all activity is specialized in and the facilities fully equipped for this particular sport only. In order to support the practice of this one sport, a gym and other exercise facilities are sometimes set up, but the main goal is that one sport: gymnastics, football, swimming, boxing, etc. This focus increases the level of sporting in many ways but also causes one-sidedness. Not only on the physical level, but also on the social and emotional levels.
The boredom and frustration can strike especially young people, when it takes too long until they can enjoy the feeling of success. Maybe there is no room for self-discovery, only the competition component is very important. For this reason, it is wise for every sports club to offer a wider range of sports and exercise activities, preferably within the training / practice hours. Multi-sport activities are preferable also in the training sessions of one specific sport and not just as a funny warm-up or as a fun end game, e.g. doing gymnastics in a football training session.
Variety is more fun for everyone, but it is especially beneficial to the youngsters who may drop out of the club. Doing a variety of sports and exercise may also increase the level of performance and make one “a better athlete”, even if the main goal is having more fun. The offer must be chosen well because devising and offering suitable exercise activities is not easy, especially if it is outside the trainer’s own preferred sport. A trained PE-teacher may be best equipped for such a wider range, especially if he or she has a specialty in specific sports that the club mainly offers. That such a highly educated staff for most associations does not fit within the available budget for recreational sport is therefore very unfortunate. I would like to call these first additional activities sport-oriented additional activities, because they utilise exercise activities that are derived from the (regulated competition) sport. This corresponds to factor 14 ‘Type of sport’ from the keepyoungstersinvolved.eu project.
Recreation- oriented sporting activities
- Recreation- oriented sporting activities
The second type of additional activities is also best known within sports clubs but is less associated with the prevention of dropouts from sports clubs. Possibly this is therefore often less structured in the policy of club management. I would like to call these activities recreational-oriented activities. This is related to factor 3 ‘Relatedness’ in keepyoungstersinvolved.eu.
From years of experience within the gymnastics world, both from executive and policy perspectives at both local and national level, I dare to say with confidence that because of this type of side activities, many young people will stay involved with the club. This type of additional activities involves a huge potential of possible activities that the participants take part in to have a good time together.
With – again! – well-chosen and well-organized activities that fit in with the experience of the young people, they will find the club even more meaningful to them. Depending on age, context, local youth culture etc. you could think of watching movies, a video game competition, geocaching tours, musical productions, water activities and so on. A large part of the success of the summer camps of sports federations is due to the recreational-oriented activities! Sporting clubs and associations that offer this type of activities in a structured way and that support this in policy and facilitate this with budget, have -as we say in Dutch- ‘gold in their hands’. There is ample experience within sports associations in supporting framework formation precisely for this type of activities.
Unfortunately, this does not always seem to be given enough priority at the local level „because the sport itself is of course more important“. Members of the board who make such statements would do well to investigate what the club’s objective is. When it comes to facilitating lifetime sports practice by members of the club, the above statement may need to be reconsidered. If these recreation-oriented activities are organized by the young people themselves, the extra is effective. They become even more involved with the club and probably know best what is attractive to their peers. One of the possibilities to shape the organizational talent of young people is the program I am P.A.
I am P.A.
P.A. stands for professional assistant. This Good Practice was developed by Special Heroes Netherland (see www.specialheroes.nl) and focuses on the somewhat youngsters between ages 14 – 19 years. The starting point is the conviction that every young person has talents and is entitled to a meaningful place within the sports club. Everyone is and can be part of the club! Sometimes this active participation is not directly related to the sport itself, but more the assistant positions within the club as an organization. Often in collaboration with a local or regional educational institution, the program I am P.A. prepares young people for a place or task within the club where they can act independently. Every club has something to offer, whether it is an assistant for the trainer, the catering in the club canteen, the landscaping of the site, material management, or media.
„I obtained my diploma for the Sport PA course. At the end we organized a soccer tournament, I now know that I want to become a sports teacher!“Kyara
The importance for the club is clear: many hands make the work better done and young people who might otherwise leave are hooked up to the club. The youngsters have great interest in the sports club. Doing something important for the club strengthens self-confidence because they can use their energy and creative ideas and thereby show courage and talent. This provides valuable experiences that will certainly come in handy later both in and outside the sport! The program I am P.A. from Special Heroes in Netherlands focuses on pupils from special education and practical education. As a member of the board or a committee, you do not need to have much imagination to see the opportunities for all young people and not just for members of the club who no longer see the challenge in the sport itself.
Keep the youngsters at a sports club! That is what the European KidMove project is about, because it is of great importance that young people keep moving and stay connected to a club and experience pleasure, empowerment and a safe sports climate. This also applies to adults, of course. For more publications and videos, see www.kidmove.eu
Franceline van de Geer, Special Heroes the Netherlands; Franceline is the coordinator of the „I am P.A“ program and has extensive experience in keeping young people involved in sports clubs by leveraging their specific talents.
Paul Verschuur, Windesheim University of Applied Sciences; Paul has a lot of experience in gymnastics being teacher physical education, gymnastics trainer and organizer & influencer in recreation-oriented additional activities on local and national level.