Most children and young athletes play sports to have fun

Why do children play sports if not to win championships and achieve sport stardom? According to Peter Barston the answer is simple: they play for fun.

A 2010 New York Times article reported that Barston, at the time a grade 10 student at Fairfield College Prep School, polled youth athletes in Darien, Connecticut, to find out why they played sports. Barston’s survey offered 11 reasons for participating in sports to children between grades 4 and 8. The top answer was to have fun, regardless of the respondents’ age, gender or sport of choice.

“It shows kids are out there to get away from their lives and have a good time with their friends,” Barston, a recreation league second baseman, said. “They’re not out there just to win.”

The idea developed after Barston’s father, Mike, learned about a 1989 Michigan State study that had found young athletes played for fun. Barston wanted to know if motivations had changed.

When the Times article was published, Barston had canvassed roughly 255 members of the Darien Junior Football League and nearly 500 boys and girls from the Darien Y.M.C.A. basketball league. He later surveyed youth baseball and softball players. The results were the same.

“It reminds us why kids play sports in the first place,” said Guy Wisinski, member of Darien’s junior football league’s board. “It’s not about winning a championship in the fourth grade and having that be a life achievement.”

Barston later established Why do you play sports?, a website dedicated to his findings.

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