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Rapport Building and Communicating Developing Mindsets

How Can Coaches Deal with Drop-off?

It’s been a sporting conundrum for years: how to retain participants at key stages in their lives. Matt Majendie discovers some key solutions to the problem of drop-offs, including taking the time to understand what motivates the people you coach

At some point during our lives, we can be prone to drop-off, putting exercise on the back burner. What can coaches do to combat that?

So often, it happens at key stages in our lives: maybe during GCSEs or A-levels, or perhaps not until later life with work, marriage or other major life events. As many as 70% of 16-24-year-olds and 60% of 25-34-year-olds who leave sport cite ‘life transition’ as the reason.

One of the key ages for things going awry, according to a 2013 Sport England report, is 11–16. But the evidence shows that if youngsters are engaged in or by a specific sport, they’re more likely to still be taking part from the ages of 25–34.

Does everyone experience this phase?

Alan Watkinson was the PE teacher who first got double Olympic and world champion Mo Farah involved in athletics. The former teacher went on to work for Sport Impact, a not-for-profit organisation aiming to avoid drop-offs by enhancing the physical education and sport experience of all young people.

Alan acknowledges that there were dramatic moments of drop-off even for Mo on his path to the top of the sport: “I think, with Mo, there was always a danger [of him leaving the sport],” said Alan, “but thankfully, there was the strong driving factor that he loved it. 

“But take university for example. It was important for him to go for training, but universities have this party atmosphere and, being the social character Mo is, he got distracted by loving student life.”

Trying to explain the drop-off more broadly is not always easy, although Alan believes there is a recurring theme. 

“There’s an inherent laziness in most people and, if it’s not on a plate for them, people won’t do it,” he points out. 

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UK Coaching Team