As a parent it is your obligation to put the interest of what's best for your child in perspective. It is important for you to remember that youth sports is a learning environment as well as a fitness activity. Much like with school, we need to remember that the goal is for your child to learn new things and improve on what they have learned.
The Cold Hard Facts
Many, and I mean MANY, parents have lost their focus on why kids play sports and the true purpose of youth sports. For other parents, they may start with the true intention of youth sports participation but they can quickly become intertwined with the other parents' views of having that future Scholarship or Pro Athlete... Unfortunately, the true fact is that 50% of kids who start sports before age 10, who are forced to specialize in one sport early and/or have overly critical parents and coaches will drop out before they even reach High School. Of those that do play High School Sports, only 5% of them will make it to college on scholarship and only 5% of them will make it to the Professional Ranks.
Why Kids Play Sports...
Various research shows that kids play sports for some of the following reasons:
- To Have Fun (always #1)
- To do something I am good at
- To improve my skills
- To get exercise and stay in shape
- To be part of a team
- Excitement of competition
They do not play to win, of course they, like most people, like to win and they enjoy competing, but winning is just a plus for them. They play sports to have fun, to be with their friends, to feel good about themselves, and because it is exciting. Yet us as parents pick and choose our childs’ team because it is a winning team, has a winning coach, the defending champion, and assume that because of all the wins everything else just happens? Our biggest flaw is that we fail to search for happy faces, and proper and safe developmental environments.
A Learning An Environment...
Remember that just like Math or English takes time to learn, learning a sport is no different. You need to have patience, especially if your child is just starting out in sports. Your child will not become an all-star overnight.
Even if your child has raw talent, it takes years for them to learn how to properly harness and not overuse or abuse their natural abilities. Give your kids time and don’t judge their progress or achievement (or lack of) every game or practice and don't push them too hard, too early.
Pushing your child too hard, too early and too often, will often lead to burnout or even worst, an irreversible, life changing injury. When this happens your child loses out on the benefits of youth sports and their raw talent may go to waste.
We need to treat our kids sports experience similar to school, where we don't sit there and judge everything they do as they are doing it. They would not like class very much if we sat there during every class and pointed out everything they are doing wrong, that is the teachers job.
Just like Pushing or Forcing academics on them too hard may eventually lead to that mental meltdown that can do damage that may take years to reverse, doing the same in sports may lead to the same result. Many kids grow to dislike sports for these same reasons.
A Positive Environment...
If you want your child to have a fun and positive experience, it starts with you. You have the choice to make sure your child has the best possible sports experience. You need to support your child and set a good example on the sidelines and at home. A lot of how your child will act on the field depends on you.
Yelling and screaming at them for mistakes or at the mistakes of teammates, the coaches, the other team or the refs not only looks bad but is counter-productive, sets a bad example and worst of all, it can be very contagious. It is proven that speaking to your child or others as you yourself would like to be spoken to can have a significant impact on how your child will act not only towards you but others as well. Let's be honest, once that ball starts rolling in the wrong direction it's hard to stop it.
Be There To Experience It With Them...
I know we all have busy lives but you really do NEED to be at practices and games, especially with younger children. Contrary to what many parents believe, dropping your kid off at practice isn't social me time (OK, maybe a little) but this is the time you should be there watching everything that your child and his/her coaches are doing. Trust me, it's better for your child to be asking did you see this or that than having to explain it all because you or any other family member weren't there.
As your child becomes older, your being at every practice becomes of less importance. In fact some teenagers would rather prefer you to be at their games than their practices. Some will see you being at every single practice as "babysitting" and maybe even view it as a time away on their own, a step towards becoming an independent young adult (yes, I said it :/).
Listen To Them...
If your child says that you are embarrassing them or doesn't like something you may be doing on the sideline it's not that they are being mean, it doesn't mean they don't love you, it just means they are growing up. It doesn't mean you should pout or stop going to games and practices (those are the last things you should do), it means listen and be supportive. Listen to your child and suck up any self-pride you may have, this is the first step for them on their road to become a young, successful adult.
Your time to chime in is when your child asks for advice. This will be most likely a subtle hint without really asking. It may be in the form of "I'm not doing something right" or "I don't completely understand this or that". This is your Que and now is the time to interact but do it tactfully. They don't want to hear what they are doing wrong, rather give them some choices on how to correct it. The old adage of never tell a baby "Don't or No" can be handy here. Instead, ask them what the coach said to them on how it should be done, if they haven't asked the coach give them some ideas of on how you might try to correct it if it was you using the words "Do or Try".
Why Kids Quit Sports...
Studies have shown that kids quit sports for the following reasons:
- Criticism and yelling
- No playing time
- Emphasis on winning
- Poor communication
- Fear of making mistakes
- Not learning
It is up to you as a parent to make sure your children are in a sports environment that focuses on the positives. You should also be on the lookout for some of the things above, making sure that you are communicating with your child about their experience. It is up to you to ensure that they are having fun and that their sports experience is not overly critical.