We all know that enjoying sports and fitness activities as a youth can lead to a lifetime of good health (both physical and mental), confidence, and happiness, right?
So then, why do so many of us parents totally ruin sports for them by the time they really need these positive feelings and good exercise habits…namely the teen and adult years. I can’t answer that question, but I can give a few recommendations as to how to help your young child (sports beginner) get the most out of playing sports.
Actually, having fun at sports is really easy, it’s a natural thing….I think I’d better focus on some recommendations on how to NOT to screw it up for your child when he’s young. The goal is to get him/her to keep playing and improving season after season. We want to them to build confidence at one sport, so they will want to try more things as they get older and eventually find what they love, whether it be soccer, gymnastics, lacrosse, ballet, piano, or whatever. I’ve known kids who’ve wanted to (and did) quit sports for life by age 6 because there was too much pressure and it wasn’t fun enough, thanks to dad being too gung-ho or mom being too competitive (or vice-versa).
1) Follow your kids’ lead. If he wants to play soccer with you after soccer practice, or go to the batting cages, that’s great! But please don’t try to teach him anything or do the drills the coach just did (ie. if you are setting up cones in the backyard, you have a problem). Let him show you what he learned and play the way he wants to….Let the play time with you be FUN, no pressure.
2) Praise his skills (‘that was an amazing catch you made in left field’)
3) After games, win or loss, don’t make a big deal of anything. Just say “You were awesome!! Was it fun? ” then move on “lets go eat lunch”. If s/he wants to talk about the game he will, if not: no big deal. Even after a big win, don’t make a HUGE DEAL about it because s/he eventually realizes that “wow if my dad is that excited about me winning, he’s gonna be pissed or really disappointed in me when I lose”.
4) Bring good snacks on your snack day, let her pick them out with you at the grocery store.
5) Praise his attitude (‘what a great friend and teammate you are, you showed that when you helped Jasmine up after she tripped’)
6) Don’t compare him/her to you when you ‘were his age’. Your memory is really fuzzy, you probably weren’t as good as you think and it’s not fair for him to already be competing against you (or your memory).
7) Think twice about coaching his/her team. It’s usually a very positive experience for all; but there are certain kids who are better off being coached by someone else.
8) Praise his overall self with no regard to his sports ability, or lack thereof. (“you’re an awesome kid, I’m so proud of you’)
So, your overall goal is for your child to get some exercise, teamwork-training, and sport skills training, but for them not to think about it that way. All you need them to know at this young age is they are having a great time and they want to come back next week!