Top 5 reasons kids play sports

April 17, 2012 12 Comments »
Top 5 reasons kids play sports

You want your child to be active and to have fun. Research shows that’s exactly what they want, too.

A Michigan State University study asked boys and girls aged 10 to 12 why they played sports. Here are the top five reasons they gave:

1. To have fun.
2. To do something I’m good at.
3. To improve my skills.
4. To stay in shape.
5. To get exercise.

Surprise; “winning” didn’t even make the top ten reasons.

Study after study comes up with the same #1 result. Kids play sports for the fun of it.

And not having fun is one of the major reasons 70 percent of kids quit playing sports by the time they’re 13.

Most often it’s parents and coaches who want to win. Kids hardly care. For them, winning is just icing on the cake. They’re focused on simpler things.

Even at the high school level, most kids would rather play on a losing team than sit on the bench of a winning one. That doesn’t mean that kids don’t value winning, just that they prefer playing.

If you want your children to play sports, all you have to do is make sure they are having fun.

Ed. note: an earlier version of this story incorrectly named University of Michigan as the source of the research. In fact, the study was conducted by the Institute for the Study of Youth Sports at Michigan State University.

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  1. RedStar February 18, 2018 at 6:30 pm - Reply

    great article and absolutely truth..If kids don’t play for fun, their interest in sports is dying. BRING FUN back to sports and kids will be more active, they will enjoy it

  2. Craig MacDougall April 21, 2015 at 12:25 pm - Reply

    Hi Blaine, did you get the survey from 2010 that Tyler mentioned?

    • Blaine Kyllo
      Blaine Kyllo April 27, 2015 at 8:54 pm - Reply

      No, Tyler has not responded to our request for a citation. Do you know of it, Craig?

  3. richard April 19, 2015 at 9:35 pm - Reply


  4. richard April 19, 2015 at 9:34 pm - Reply

    this helped me a lot !! my child got lots of help thanks.

  5. tyler October 14, 2014 at 6:59 am - Reply

    the study you are talking about was done in 1989 and winning was not in the top 10. A more recent study in 2010 had boys & girls in various sports ranking winning as high as #2 & #3 in order of importance.

    Times change and so have our children and their perspective on sport.

    • Blaine Kyllo
      Blaine Kyllo October 17, 2014 at 11:19 am - Reply

      Thanks for the comment, Tyler. Can you provide more information about the 2010 study you refer to? It definitely sounds interesting, but we would like to review and assess the actual study. Specifically, we’d look at the age of the kids surveyed, the questions they were asked, and how the kids’ answers were interpreted. The study methodology can have a big impact on the conclusions drawn.

  6. Tri June 23, 2014 at 2:27 am - Reply

    I think that its true

  7. Roxanne December 10, 2013 at 8:05 am - Reply

    Thanks for this article. I’ve been sending my kids to camp every year since they were old enough. I wanted them to develop the confidence that comes with playing a sport and so far it has worked!! We send them to Frogbridge and we love it!

  8. Blaine Kyllo
    Blaine Kyllo November 30, 2012 at 1:51 pm - Reply

    Anna, the study was actually conducted at Michigan State (we’ve just corrected the story): Institute for the Study of Youth Sports in 1989.

  9. Anna November 30, 2012 at 1:33 pm - Reply

    It’s fascinating how these reasons stay constant decade after decade. Interested in learning more. Can you please share the reference for this study done out of the University of Michigan. Thanks!

  10. cathi July 9, 2012 at 7:28 am - Reply

    This is so true. My daughter always says this. Don’t get me wrong, she also plays to win, but it is definitely the playing and taking part she adores. I am happy to say we have never pushed or tried to live our dreams through her. We are quite capable of doing that ourselves. She is now 13 still loves climbing trees, going for bike rides, riding horses, comes home after school and is out at the playing fields within minutes having a game of football with her friends. It truly is wonderful to see and hear! Great article. Thank you.

    With thanks and appreciation.

    Cathi x

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