Did you know…Michael Jordan had his agent insert a “love of the game” clause into his NBA contract that allowed him to play basketball whenever and wherever he wanted. Why? He understood the value and benefit of unstructured, pickup play. The era of the backyard, unstructured play of kids getting together, making up games, and playing for hours on end is largely gone. That’s sad. I’ve been involved in youth sports and recreation for close to 22 years and I recognize a trend that is rapidly moving away from why children want to play sports in the first place – FUN! A recent George Washington University study showed 9 of 10 kids said “fun” is the main reason they participate. Of a list of 81 reasons why they play, “winning” came in at #48! My takeaway and what I have personally learned from a career of coaching/teaching, is that kids mostly just want a venue, an environment, an opportunity to try their best. To me, I see the challenge for our kids as being over-structured programs and experiences. The solution – reintroducing free play and the benefits of unstructured play. Let kids play on their own terms, and they will. As parents, coaches, and community we need to create the time for kids to experience what was so memorable about how we grew up, when unstructured play was the norm. Re-imagine what playing youth sports should be like – be like Mike!