Finding “Fun” In Every Way For Kids

Over the last three years, DC Stoddert Soccer has been a great contributor to the important youth sport research being conducted by Dr. Amanda J. Visek, Department of Exercise Science, and her research team at the Milken Institute School of Public Health at the George Washington University. Specifically, DC Stoddert and other area soccer clubs have been key informants in identifying all of the things that make playing sports fun – information that can be used to keep kids engaged in sports into and beyond their adolescence.

Using Science to Keep Soccer Fun

In youth sport today, “fun” is an important area to study. Visek states, “The number one reason why children play sports is because it’s fun and the number one reason why they drop out of organized sport is because it is not fun anymore.So far, the first phase of Visek’s research has identified 81 determinants of fun for children as young as 9 years old and adolescents up to age 19, across both recreational and travel competition levels.

“Fun is something that everyone at DC Stoddert thinks about and strives for daily,” said Douglas Homer, DC Stoddert’s Executive Director. In addition to studying what exactly makes sports fun for kids, the second phase of Visek’s research has been focused on identifying all of the things that get in the way of kid’s fun experiences. Says Visek, “An absence of any of the 81 things that make playing sports fun for kids is not necessarily what may be impeding children’s fun.” Analysis of all of the obstacles to fun is currently underway by Visek and her research team. Homer states, “By working directly with our players, coaches and families, we hope that this research will identify the full scope of determining factors that can help our organization design and implement active soccer curricula and evidence-driven programs that truly fosters fun for children.”

Spring Soccer Research

Utilizing the fun data previously collected from players, parents, and coaches, Visek’s research team has developed a survey that measures all of the many dimensions of fun. This third phase of the research project again involves members of the Stoddert Soccer community in her efforts to test and validate the fun survey. The research team will be hitting the soccer fields again this spring, enlisting kids to help validate the fun instrument using iPads. Homer adds, “Once validated, the survey can be used to identify where clubs and teams are excelling at fun and those areas where they could be doing a better job at enriching the sport experience for kids. This is an important effort that Stoddert Soccer fully supports.”

Our ultimate goal is to provide youth sport organization’s and their communities with strategies that will maximize fun for children thereby keeping them playing for as long as possible through their adolescence and into their adulthood. We are very thankful to the DC Stoddert community for their important contributions over the years and look forward to working with them again this spring season,” says Visek. To learn more about what makes sports fun for kids, contact Dr. Visek directly at avisek@gwu.edu.

About the Milken Institute School of Public Health at the George Washington University:

Established in July 1997 as the School of Public Health and Health Services, the Milken Institute School of Public Health is the only school of public health in the nation’s capital. Today, more than 1,100 students from nearly every U.S. state and more than 40 nations pursue undergraduate, graduate and doctoral-level degrees in public health. The school also offers an online Master of Public Health, MPH@GW, and an online Executive Master of Health Administration, MHA@GW, which allow students to pursue their degree from anywhere in the world.

About DC Stoddert Soccer: Established in 1977, DC Stoddert Soccer is the largest youth sports organization in the District of Columbia. The club was founded by parents who wanted their children to learn how to play soccer. Since then, the organization has evolved into a community-minded, volunteer-driven entity that provides innovative soccer enrichment opportunities for more than 12,000 children throughout the school year. The club also offers a variety of clinics for players, referee education and training for coaches to help educate and inspire its constituents. For further information, visit www.stoddert.com