We generally assume that there are gender differences that explain why teens appreciate organized sports. Girls seek out activities for the social aspects, while boys chase opportunities for competition, right? According to a new study that analyzed determinants that make outdoor activities fun for teens, teens tend to be drawn to activities that teach them transferable skills, not just skills specific to the sport. This research supports a wilderness therapy model that introduces teens to a variety of adventure activities to teach them how to apply their values and build confidence.

What Do Teens Learn from Adventure Activities?

“Our data indicate girls and boys are more similar than different when it comes to what makes playing sports fun,” said Amanda J. Visek, PhD, an associate professor of exercise and nutrition sciences at the George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health. “What counts most for girls and boys are things like ‘trying your best,’ ‘working hard,’ ‘staying active,’ and ‘playing well together as a team.’ These findings are the same for athletes at younger and older ages and across recreational and more competitive levels of play.”

Adventure activities are designed to be fun, social activities rather than competitive sports. By taking the pressure off of “winning” or “doing things well,” kids of all experience levels focus on developing core values that make them more confident “team players” rather than “athletes.”

Implications of this Study

These findings can be used by sports organizations and wilderness therapy programs to make their programs more engaging. Kids in the United States who drop out of organized sports typically do so by middle school, claiming that games and practices just aren’t fun anymore. When they lose motivation to stay actively engaged in healthy social activities like sports, they may withdraw in other areas of their life too. 

While organized sports are one way to keep kids engaged in physical activity, they also play a role in how teens build their sense of identity and purpose. 

Adventure Activities in Wilderness Therapy

Wilderness therapy is designed to help teens rebuild their sense of identity-based on their values, not their achievements. Participating in a variety of adventure activities is an experiential form of therapy that particularly appeals to teens who have trouble expressing their emotions and connecting with others.

“Sport sampling — allowing kids to play several different sports — as well as the opportunity for kids, especially those at younger ages, to get experience playing all of the different positions within a sport, is important for their personal and athletic development,” Visek said.

At blueFire Wilderness Therapy, we offer:


  • Rock climbing
  • Hiking
  • Backpacking and camping
  • Mountain biking
  • Kayaking and canoeing
  • Paddleboarding
  • Yoga
  • Equine therapy
  • Cross country skiing and show-shoeing

blueFire Wilderness Can Help 

blueFire Wilderness Therapy is an adventure-based program for teens ages 11-17 who struggle with addictive behaviors. Wilderness therapy removes students from the distraction of peers, devices, and demands of life and allows them to heal in a supportive and nurturing environment. Clients will be able to focus on themselves and become more aware of their troubling behaviors. BlueFire gives them the skills and tools they need to combat these behaviors and be on their way to a happy and healthy life. We can help your family today!

Contact us at 1-844-413-1999.


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