Tackling Boredom of Sport!

22 May 2023
Delivering Sport and recreation at alert level 2

The teenage years are a time in life when more opportunities for fun, connection and growth become available to young people, so if sport is starting to feel boring to them (like doing the same old things at training all the time), then dropping out becomes a consideration and saying that they’re ‘too busy’, or ‘can’t fit it in any more’ can be the rationale they use. 

Many rangatahi in the ‘Future of Sport for Rangatahi in NZ’ research talked about simply becoming bored, caused by a sense of coaches prioritising repetition at training over progression - feeling like they are being taken through the motions, rather than growing and progressing.      

“Getting bored was the big reason I stopped playing, to be honest.  I just got bored, it was all the same and wasn’t interesting anymore.  It was doing the same thing at training every week," said one survey participant. 

"I started off enjoying it, then it was the same thing twice a week. It just got too repetitive."

When this happens, rangatahi often start engaging in other activities that provide stimulation and which don't feel 'repetitive’, (for example, gaming). But there is a simple solution to addressing the issue of boredom. A number of the research participants reflected on how they enjoyed sport when the team could choose the training activities as this kept it interesting and useful.  

"For me I'd like to change up how the game is played a bit, trying to form a different attack, or trying a different strategy more often."

"I always loved when coaches would ask us what we wanted to do... We want to improve our skills and from there, we'd have the motivation to do it because we picked it, it's different from being forced to do something in that way." 

Asking for their input into what you’re doing is a simple solution to help tackle boredom and prevent drop-out! 

Is it really that simple? For many of them, ‘yes’ it is! Allowing your athletes to have a say, asking them what they want to do, and giving them some agency and ownership makes a difference. 

So that’s one easy solution (not everything has to be hard), but in case you’re thinking “ok, what else can I do?” the Balance is Better article “Self-Determination Theory: What Is It, and What Does It Mean (Practically) For Coaches?” is useful to read. It asks the question “How does my coaching encourage my athletes to return to training next week? To return to play next season?”  

The Self-Determination Theory outlines the necessary components to make an experience intrinsically motivating – because that’s what you ultimately want, for your athletes to be self-motivated. Creating the environment and culture for this is the role of the coach and it can be as easy as your athletes feeling cared for and connected. 

Another good article to read is Creating an Environment for Youth to Flourish by Charissa Barham. Coaches create and impact the environment for the participants. If your athletes are feeling bored, as the coach you need to take some ownership for this – it’s not just because teens easily get bored! To create an environment where they’ll flourish (and keep coming back), you need to understand your motivation and your ‘why’ that you’re a coach and you need to understand your players ‘why’ for being involved.  

So in tackling the issue of boredom and rangatahi dropping out of sport, ask them what they’d like to do at training, give them an opportunity to feedback to you on how the game day went and any ideas they’ve got, find out what their individual goals are, and be aware that if you’re doing the same training sessions week after week and aren’t focusing on development or progression, it’s likely to get boring. They might just get “too busy with school/work/life” to come to training or play again next season! 

For more tips on how to tackle boredom, read our article “What is Fun?”