Parenting and Youth Sports
There are millions of kids involved with youth sports across the United States, whether it’s on a baseball diamond or a basketball court, an ice rink or football field. Not only are these children getting a chance to run around with friends and experience some great exercise, they are also learning some valuable life lessons. Sports are a great place for kids to learn how to deal with adversity and learn how to master skills on their own. The National Council of Youth Sports estimates that about 41 million boys and girls play organized sports and that number has been growing steadily.
It’s important for these children to take their own initiative when it comes to youth sports. Parents often become too involved with their child’s performance and they take away from the experience. It’s good for kids to learn how to bounce back if they strike out or miss a shot and to talk to their coach if they don’t think they’re getting enough playing time. When parents get too consumed with what is going on with their child’s youth sports career, the child will notice and it often puts a tremendous amount of pressure on them. It’s great for parents to support their children, but they need to find the right balance of involvement in order for the child to get the most out of their experience. If parents really do want their children to enjoy amateur sports they need to have their child go out and learn life lessons from actual experiences.
Children get an immediate sense of belonging to something when they join a youth sports team; they get the uniform, the trophy, the team name, the nicknames, the photos and the interaction with each other at school. Recreational leagues that let everybody play, regardless of their ability, make kids feel worthwhile and give them a sense of self-respect and dignity. It also gives them some control and a chance to make their own decisions in a world run by parents and teachers. These children are going to be learning to use the tools that apply to each sport along with the rules that come with them. The more they learn, the more they are in control. With playing youth sports also comes an education on sportsmanship and how to control your emotions.
It’s very important for parents to see their children as good athletes regardless of their performance. Building their confidence will not only make them perform at a higher level, but it will also encourage them to have more fun. Tying a child’s self-esteem to their performance can be devastating. Children should be complimented regardless of their performance, as long as they try their best. Parents need to find a balance between supporting and motivating their kids.
If you find yourself as a mom or dad pushing your kid to do things (i.e. try out for a travel team or to go to practice seven days a week) and the kid doesn’t have the enthusiasm to do it, ultimately the kid is going to walk away from the sport, probably a lot sooner than you anticipate. And when kids walk away they don’t come back.
It’s also important as a parent to remain calm if your child makes a mistake. One of the biggest things that sports teach a kid is that it’s OK to make a mistake. In the game of baseball a successful hitter has a batting average right around .300, meaning that they only get a hit three out of ten times. When you make a mistake it’s ok. You can learn from it and move on. If parents overact, kids are more likely to get emotional and beat themselves up over a mistake instead of making adjustments to fix the problem.
Parents need to make an effort to praise their children for the good things they do in a game instead of focusing on what they need to improve on. They need to remember that youth sports are all about the kids having fun and learning things on their own. Complimenting your child will build their confidence and make them proud of what they are doing. The truth is inevitable that only a small percentage of the population is capable of continuing their youth sports career through high school and college and into the professional level. However, the life lessons that these youth sports teach will always be there. It’s up to the parents and how they handle themselves when it comes to maximizing their child’s youth sports experience.