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UK Coaching Team
Children Young people

Children's Coaches Must Prioritise Enjoyment

Sport England's Active Lives Children and Young People Survey has shown that enjoyment is the biggest driver for physical literacy. Coaches are ideally placed to create an environment that prioritises this

Sport England surveyed more than 130,000 children for their Active Lives Children and Young People Survey. Alongside other key considerations for children's and youth coaches, the results of the survey highlight the importance of ensuring that sport and physical activity sessions are engaging and encourage long-term involvement in sport and physical activity.

These are that:

  1. Physically literate children do twice as much activity. There are five elements of physical literacy - enjoyment; confidence; competence; understanding and knowledge - and the more children have of them, the more active they are.
  2. Enjoyment is the biggest driver of activity levels. Despite most children (68%) understanding that sport and activity is good for their health, understanding had the least impact on activity levels. 
  3. Children who have all five elements of physical literacy report higher levels of happiness, are more trusting of other children, and report higher levels of resilience.
  4. Physical literacy decreases with age. As children grow older, they report lower levels of enjoyment, confidence, competence and understanding. Previous research from Sport England shows that activity levels drop when children reach their teenage years.

Inequalities between groups of people

Sport England's results also reveal important inequalities. 

Girls are less likely to say they enjoy or feel confident about doing sport and physical activity (58% of boys reported enjoying it compared to 43% of girls, and 47% of boys reported feeling confident, compared to 31% of girls). Among children aged 5-7, boys are more likely to love playing sport, while girls are more likely to love being active.

Children from the least affluent families are less likely to enjoy activity than those from the most affluent families, and previous research shows they are also far less likely to be active.

Black children are more physically literate than other ethnic groups, but are less active in comparison to the rest of the population.

Put enjoyment at the heart of everything you do

Sport England has said that the "results prove for the first time that children’s physical literacy impacts not only the amount of activity they do, but also how much they benefit from this activity."

As a result, Sport England's Chief Executive Tim Hollingsworth is now calling for "everyone involved at a child’s activity level to ensure that enjoyment is at the heart of anything they do."

UK Coaching believes all coaches who work with children and young people should have an understanding and knowledge of how to implement fundamental movement skills, which underpin successful participation in a wide variety of sporting activities.

To enhance this, coaches should check their coaching practice against the Principles of Great Coaching to ensure their sport and physical activity sessions are engaging, enjoyable and fun for children and young people.

Put the two together and you have a winning combination that UK Coaching is keen to help more coaches achieve.

“These findings reflect our belief that motivations for children and young people go beyond the physical and technical aspects of sport and physical activity," said UK Coaching Head of Participation Heather Douglas. 

"Alongside our partners, including Sport England, we have collaboratively built a bank of resources and workshops to realise Tim Hollingsworth's call to action and help coaches put enjoyment and fun at the heart of their sessions.

Our principles act as a useful reference point for coaches to create the types of coaching environments that produce well-rounded individuals who are confident, creative, caring and compassionate, and who have a lifelong love of sport and physical activity."

Principles of Great Coaching

Discover more about producing Great Coaching experiences and UK Coaching's six principles of Great Coaching in our range of resources on the topic

Start Exploring

Coaching Children 5-12: The Next Generation

Reconsider the emphasis of your coaching and learn how to enhance the coaching experience for the children and young people at your sessions

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How to Coach the Fundamentals of Movement

Develop your understanding of fundamental movement skills and build key strategies to assist in observing and correcting movement skill competency

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Related Resources

  • Encouraging Participants to Laugh Together

  • The Importance of Coaching Fundamental Movement Skills

  • What is Great Coaching?


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UK Coaching Team