Millions of children across the country participate in youth sports. It’s not unusual for children to start participating in youth sports as early as four to five years of age. And, while there are lots of potential benefits associated with participation in youth sports, it’s critically important that parents and coaches make it a positive experience — at home, and at all practices and games.
Participation is the first step — get them involved. The benefits of youth sports participation reach far beyond what children do today on the court or field of play, and include:
- Socialization with peers and adults
- Increased independence and confidence
- Sense of achievement
- Development of positive self-esteem
- Opportunity to demonstrate leadership skills
- Learn to compete and cooperate with others
- Development of physical skills
- Learn to make good decisions and act responsibly
- Learn appropriate expression of emotions and feelings
Focus on development of physical skills, not winning and losing. This is the time to emphasize sport-specific skill development (for example, ball-handling and shooting for basketball players), as well as the development of strength, speed, agility, coordination, and endurance. Be willing to allow victory and defeat to be a by-product of the process, and not the primary focus.
Encourage them. Kids learn by what we say, but even more so by what we do. Be positive and encouraging. A word of encouragement in a difficult situation goes a long way with a child. Also, be aware of how you act, interact, and react with your team, other parents, opposing coaches and teams, and officials. As an adult and authority figure, your words and actions will be interpreted as “situationally appropriate” by children watching you and, ultimately, learning from you.
Make it fun. Children should enjoy their participation in sports. It’s okay to smile. Maintain a pleasant demeanor and don’t raise your voice in anger or to criticize; only to praise, encourage, or to be heard while providing direction.
Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!