Recent academic literature on sport coaching has acknowledged the importance of domain specificity, emphasising the significance of participant motives and the coaching environment in determining appropriate coaching practice. Although children’s motivations for taking part in sport have been a popular research area, there has been no attempt, until now, to review the research literature that specifically addresses this issue. This review found that children’s participation in sport is mediated by five primary factors: perception of competence; fun and enjoyment; parents; learning new skills; and friends and peers. These findings suggest that, in addition to the generally acknowledged psychological factors, the social-cultural context in which children play influences their motivations to participate. If children are to remain involved in sport, it is vital that coaches’ behaviours and practices match the needs of the young participants. Coaches are responsible for creating a developmentally appropriate learning environment that ensures children maintain active sports participation. If this is to be achieved, coaches need to think carefully about the behaviours they use, and how they structure their coaching sessions. Coaches should use more positive than negative behaviours, and emphasise fun and enjoyment, teamwork and effort, over winning and competition.
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