I believe that it’s very important for athletes to learn how to have fun while playing and training for their sport. Intrinsic motivation and having fun are so important for a few reasons. 

First of all, having fun is a reward in itself. Sports are meant to be fun. Sports can provide you some of your most fun memories in life. The fun provided by sports can greatly improve your mental health. If you’ve had a lot of fun during your athletic career, then you’ve had a good career. 

But fun is important for other reasons as well. It can help you reach your athletic goals. Some people think that if you focus too much on having fun, you won’t be serious enough to succeed. This is not true. 

Having fun can greatly help you stay committed to your sport for the long term. Having fun gives you another reason to train everyday. Having fun helps you cope with the more boring, grueling, and frustrating parts of training.

It’s hard to stay committed to your sport if you don’t experience any positive emotions while playing. If you have no fun, then you’re going to dread going to practice everyday. Sports will start to feel like work. And if you start failing, you may want quit playing your sport. 

Fun doesn’t just help with motivation and commitment. It also can improve performance. Having positive emotions and enjoying the moment in games improves your motivation, confidence, and concentration. Most notably, it improves your relaxation by taking pressure off yourself.

When you play for fun, you relieve nervousness and play more loose. All of this greatly helps you perform better than if you put too much pressure on yourself, are too serious, and have no fun, where you’re more likely to get nervous, choke, get frustrated, and play angry (which clouds judgement and leads to stupid decisions). 

Obviously you can’t just have fun all the time. You also need to have other motivations to push you through the most grueling aspects of training.  But fun should definitely be emphasized more in training and especially in games. 

Remember, fun isn’t just about laughing, goofing around, socializing with your teammates, and celebrations. Fun also comes from being in the zone, working hard, improving, and competing your hardest. Have fun by being in the present moment and enjoying playing your sport for its own sake. Enjoy running, throwing, catching, blocking, tackling, strategizing, and making plays. 

There’s many ways to have fun in practice. You can practice fun skills such as trick plays, one hand catches, and Hail Marys. You can play fun games and fun competitive drills. You can practice with music. You can mix up your training and do different kinds of workouts. Be creative, and find ways to make training more fun. 

As a coach, you need to emphasize fun more. Teach your players how to have fun and enjoy the game. Make practices more fun. Make your team culture more fun. Be fun to be around. Don’t make your players nervous and stressed out just by you being in their presence. But you also need to know how and when to switch modes and be more serious when appropriate. 

A key thing to remember is that there’s times to have fun, there’s time to have fun AND work hard at the same time, and there’s times to work hard without worrying too much about whether it’s fun or not. The best athletes and coaches know how and when to switch from each of these modes.