Brazil is playing Costa Rica in the 2018 World Cup. The commentator starts talking about fun. He continues to make the point that the idea of fun is a crucial part of playing well.
He wasn’t talking about kids playing, he was talking about men playing at the highest level, and it is about fun.
To create some context; the conversation was about Neymar and his ability to be a key player within the Brazilian team. The commentator said, “the game is supposed to be fun, and when he is having fun, the entire team plays better.” I think this highlights the importance of this underrated word FUN.
Why do I think this to be a post-worthy topic?
There are too many kids playing sport today under the pressure of winning and losing. The weight of their future college career hanging in the balance. Heaven forbid if they actually played to have fun.
The commentator also said that when Neymar is not having fun, it prevents his teammates from relaxing into the game, and so no one enjoys the game.
There is a lesson here. If the term fun is being used when talking about the best players in the world, playing at the highest level possible, and it being something that will help them perform better… shouldn’t we take fun into account for our youth?
So, what does it mean for youth to have fun?
To answer that I would ask you to think back to your childhood. What did fun mean to you? I am guessing, if you are anything like me, most of it was centered around activities that had limited adult involvement.
Kids playing without adult interaction creates that exciting, carefree, creative making experience that makes any kind of play fun. Whether it be Neymar at the World Cup or your children at the park.
Structured play is important at a certain level, I don’t disagree with coaching. But I do think there is a more significant need for free-play in any sport. What’s wrong with setting up a field, standing back, and letting kids play. The activity doesn’t matter, what is important is giving kids the chance to experience the fun of running around with their peers without an adult correcting them and telling them what to do.
When the uniforms are on, fun is about letting kids go do all the things they have practiced without fear of reprimand for making mistakes. It’s time to sit back and enjoy the fun yourself. When we give kids the opportunity to play, try new skills, fail, and have fun on the field, we get to enjoy the game more.
One of the best ways to create this environment is to cheer kids on for the things they have done, as opposed to continually telling them what to do. When we give a cheer for a kid doing a stepover turn, or a double scissor while running at a defender, whether it works or not, that child is filled with pride and will want to do it again and again and again.
Kids want and need attention, and they will get it any way they can. If it is you shouting at them because they are playing up, it’s still attention. When we praise and encourage a kid for executing a learned skill, that is attention, and they will continue to do that same action to gain the same attention.
Whatever your thoughts are on the purpose of sport, at the root of it all is fun. The more fun we have when we are playing, the more we will want to play. The reverse is also true, if I am not having fun, I will stop whatever it is I am doing.
Please, let us commit to helping our kids have fun, especially when it comes to sport. Who knows, they might become as creative as Neymar is with a soccer ball at his feet, or as fiesta-like as the Brazilian fans are when he is playing at his fun-filled best.