Soccer Legend Kristine Lilly on the Missing Ingredient in Youth Sports

USWNT legend Kristine Lilly outlines what causes the fun to disappear from youth sports, and what we can do to combat it.

Kristine Lilly is one of the greatest women's soccer players of all time.

Her 352 career caps are the most of any player, man or women, in international soccer history. Her 130 career International goals rank fourth-most by any women's player. She was a four-time NCAA champion at the University of North Carolina and a two-time World Cup and Olympic champion with the United States Women's National Team. But before all that, she was just a kid who loved playing all matter of sports. Lilly hits on some of the hottest topics in youth sports, including early specialization and the proliferation of "joysticking" coaches, in this video from the Positive Coaching Alliance.

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Kristine Lilly is one of the greatest women's soccer players of all time.

Her 352 career caps are the most of any player, man or women, in international soccer history. Her 130 career International goals rank fourth-most by any women's player. She was a four-time NCAA champion at the University of North Carolina and a two-time World Cup and Olympic champion with the United States Women's National Team. But before all that, she was just a kid who loved playing all matter of sports. Lilly hits on some of the hottest topics in youth sports, including early specialization and the proliferation of "joysticking" coaches, in this video from the Positive Coaching Alliance.

"The thing about kids being burnt out or getting too much coaching, or over-coaching, whatever you'd like to call it, my biggest thing is to let kids play multiple sports. Because if you do that, then the kids are doing other sports, and you're not going to over-coach them in one aspect," Lilly says.

"If the kids are really interested in playing the game, you have to find a balance and find a coach (who's) not just about teaching the game, but enjoying the game. Because I think a lot of times what's happening when we're coaching kids, we're coaching so much of the game and we're forgetting that we need to have some fun. Because it's the fun that keeps us coming back and the fun that makes it worth doing, I think."

It's not just Lilly who thinks it—it's the kids, too. It's no exaggeration to say a lack of fun may be the biggest problem in the modern youth sports ecosystem. A poll from the National Alliance of Youth Sports found that 70 percent of U.S. kids stop playing organized sports by the age of 13, citing "not having fun anymore" as the most common reason. A couple ways to make youth sports more fun for the participants? Coaches saying less, and practices that more closely resemble play than an ultra-regimented, high-stress training session.

A 2006 document Best Practices for Coaching in the United States released by the U.S. Soccer Federation encouraged youth coaches to be more hands-off. "Coaches can often be more helpful to a young player's development by organizing less, saying less, and allowing the players to do more," the authors write. "Be comfortable organizing a session that looks like pick-up soccer."

To find this full resource and over 2,000 others from Positive Coaching Alliance, head over to pcadevzone.org.

Positive Coaching Alliance is dedicated to building Better Athletes, Better People and is a proud contributor to STACK.

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Topics: YOUTH SPORTS | POSITIVE COACHING | MULTI-SPORT ATHLETES | USWNT | POSITIVE COACHING ALLIANCE