Youth Sports Should Focus on FUNdamentals

10 Mar

muckdogs2[1]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.


Your thoughts?

5 Responses to “Youth Sports Should Focus on FUNdamentals”

  1. mdgatc at 11:19 AM #

    Think this is great stuff! I see too many kids starting “travel ball” at such an early age and the competitiveness is ratcheted up 10 notches. Sports at the elementary age should be about physical development and socialization not championships.

    • Brian Lebo at 11:50 AM #

      Thanks for the feedback, and agreed. Unfortunately, the focus on competition often overshadows fundamental skill development. As a father of four high school athletes, the lack of fundamentals and sport aptitude I observe is alarming.

      • mdgatc at 11:52 AM #

        I’ve recently moved from college level athletic training to high school….and boy are the fundamentals rough! and supposedly some of these kids play on travel teams….obviously no teaching going on with club and travel ball.

      • Brian Lebo at 11:56 AM #

        Club and travel level sports are very different than they were in years past, when they primarily accommodated elite players. These organizations have become cottage industries, willing to take hundreds of dollars (and more) in fees from anyone willing to pay, regardless of aptitude and ability.


  1. What is the Goal of Youth Sports? | Athletic Performance Training Center -

    […] Youth Sports Should Focus on FUNdamentals and Developing Athleticism in Youth Athletes.  Too often, parents and coaches are chasing their […]

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