Tag Archives: youth sports

Youth Sports Should Focus on FUNdamentals

24 Jul

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 skillsnot 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!

Your thoughts?

Should Kids Play One Sport Year-Round?

30 Dec

youth_big[1]Do you think it’s a good idea for a young athlete (8-12 years old) to play one sport year-round?  Would you allow your child?

Sport specialization, especially at a young age, is more popular/prevalent today than ever before.  Certainly, there are more opportunities for sport specialization — AAU basketball, JO volleyball, club soccer — than existed in past decades.  But, opportunity aside, I’m not sure it’s always the kids deciding to focus on a single sport at the expense of other sports and activities.  Coaches and parents put a lot of pressure on kids to concentrate on one sport, 24-7-365.

Playing multiple sports and activities helps kids develop cross-functional skills that can improve overall athletic aptitude and performance.  Conversely, intense training in a single sport before adolescence can lead to injuries, according to a review in the journal Sports Health.  Young athletes who play one sport all year typically experience more stress-related injuries, as a result of repetitive overuse without appropriate rest and recovery time.

Expose your child to other sports and activities, and encourage participation in unstructured activities (pick-up games, for example).  Encourage effort — and not only performance — especially when they are young.

If the decision to play a sport, year-round, is the desire of the child (and not just the coach and/or parent), and if the coach builds in regular breaks to allow for adequate rest and recovery… let him or her give it a try.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

5 Reasons Why Parents Make Sports That Much Better

10 Oct

sportsparents1There are lots of articles about parents of youth (and older) athletes, many of them – including one or two from yours truly – critical of the way these folks conduct themselves and ruin the experience for their kids.

Here’s an article from a young man, Jacob Linkous, that provides a refreshing perspective on the potential positive aspects of youth sports parenting (along with a link to the original article):

5 Reasons Why Parents Make Sports That Much Better

“I couldn’t have made it through high school sports without them.”

Throughout my life, I haven’t played a crazy amount of sports; however, sports have filled my life, and no matter the sport, my parents have always been there for me as my number one fans.

The first sport I ever played was soccer. My dad was actually the assistant coach for a couple years, and I played that all the way through seventh grade. The next sport I started to play was football, and that was only for fourth grade. I started to play basketball the next year all the way up until ninth grade. The only sports that I played in high school were track and cross country of which my parents supported me the most by going to almost all of my meets no matter where they were.

Some people think that sometimes parents can ruin the sport that a child loves, but I’m here to show you five ways that the parents make the sport that much better.

  1. They want you to succeed more than you do

My parents wanted nothing more than me to succeed in every aspect of sports, this was also the case with my brother who played sports in high school and my sister who played in high school and college. My dad once bet me a Nintendo DS that I wouldn’t get in the top 20 of a cross country race, I got 16th that week.

  1. Successes are just that much better

Hitting that game winning shot or maybe anchoring the swimming relay to the state championship is always a great feeling, and celebrating it with your teammates is amazing — but being able to celebrate it with your parents is ten times better.

  1. Sometimes they’ve been there.

My mother never played any sports, but my father ran cross country and also played basketball. Having my dad already played the sports helped me out so much in terms of knowing what to expect. It’s hard to know what to expect for a mile race when you’ve never really run in your life. My dad knew what it felt like to have a bad race, and he knew the right things to say to cheer me up.

  1. The bonding experience

My dad and I have a lot in common but me running cross country and distance in track and field was yet another way that we could bond, and we did a lot of it. Having similar interests is always a good way to get closer with someone.

  1. You’ll strive to be like them with your kids.

My dad always tells me how his parents never saw him run during his cross country and track and field days. This made me sad knowing he never had the support system that my siblings and I had. Whenever I have children, they won’t be forced to play sports, but if they do, I will be their biggest fan.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

What is the Goal of Youth Sports?

27 Oct

DSC_0035[1]Recently, I was talking with an old friend of mine, whose daughter is a high school freshman preparing for her first high school basketball season.  She is also a talented pitcher, and aspires to play high school softball.

He continued to tell me how the high school basketball coach is encouraging his daughter to play both sports, while the softball coach is pressuring her to quit basketball and concentrate only on softball.  Keep in mind, this young lady has not yet set foot on a high school basketball court or softball field.

Last month, I posted a blog titled, Are Parents Ruining Youth Sports?  While this is not meant to be an indictment of all youth sports coaches, I guess — in some cases — you can probably add coaches to that list.

For years, I’ve watched youth sports coaches play a limited group of players — leaving several players on the bench for most/all of the game — in the interest of winning.  It seems to me that the goal should be player development, especially at the lower levels.  That and encouraging young players’ love for the game.  The best youth leagues are the ones that mandate fair (and not necessarily equal) playing time for every child.  Kids grow and develop differently, and there’s no guarantee that the best 9 or 10 year-old athletes will grow up to be capable high school players.  Even in high school, how does it benefit a basketball program when the freshman coach only plays 6 or 7 kids?  What does it really mean if the middle school team goes undefeated?

Some youth coaches put a lot of pressure on kids to specialize in one sport — and play it year-round — at a very young age.  They try to sell the athlete and the parents on the value of concentrating on one sport in the interest of high school stardom and a college scholarship.  In reality, only a portion of youth athletes go on to become “elite” high school athletes, and only a fraction of those players eventually earn athletic scholarships (see The Race to Nowhere In Youth Sports).

Ultimately, Youth Sports Should Focus on FUNdamentals and Developing Athleticism in Youth Athletes.  Too often, parents and coaches are chasing their own aspirations and dreams instead of helping their children and players explore their interests and passions.

Youth sports coaches and programs should focus not only on creating better athletes, but also better people.  There are lots of valuable life lessons that can be learned through participation in sports.

Do your “homework” when it comes to choosing a sports coach, team, or organization for your child.  You can’t always be selective, especially as it relates to in-school sports, but you have much more latitude when selecting the appropriate club or travel team for your child.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

Are Parents Ruining Youth Sports?

12 Sep

6de7b653395b255e431287bfe42fa7a2[2]It’s important for parents to support and encourage their children’s interest and participation in sports (or any other endeavor).  Sit in the stands and cheer for your kid(s).  Provide the means — within your means — for their participation based on their interest.  Be a conduit to their learning and having fun playing the game.

And, while most parents (and coaches) “get it,” there’s a growing vocal minority whose behavior is ruining athletics for everyone involved.  These obsessive, over-involved adults have unrealistic expectations of their children’s ability and potential, operating under the misguided notion that their kids’ games are a miniature version of grown-up competitions, where the goal is to win.

Some families are overly preoccupied with finding a private batting instructor, a summer hockey program, an expensive soccer camp, or that special coach who can help their pre-pubescent child improve their jump shot.  This is often an ill-advised attempt to accelerate a process that may not even be occurring, since most young athletes will never reach the elite level.  The fact is, only about 1% of high school athletes will receive a Division 1 scholarship.

You can hire private coaches, but you can’t buy love.  Kids who passionately love their sport are children who won’t have to be nagged to practice. They’ll go out and shoot basket after basket, simply because they want to. That can’t be bought or forced.

Some parents “volunteer” to help their child’s team — keeping stats for the team, spotting for announcers, etc. — in a thinly veiled attempt to gain closer access so they can yell instructions to their child, which usually conflict with the coach’s.  They call, text, and email coaches about their child’s playing time and blame everyone else if their child fails.

Part of the problem is that these parents are living vicariously through their children and their expectations are unrealistic.  They also may feel entitled because of the investment they’ve made in their kid’s sport participation.  And, of course, they think their child is better than they actually are.  They become so emotionally invested in their child that their own identity is linked with their children’s athletic endeavors.

Ultimately, the biggest contributing factor is the financial and emotional over-investment some parents have with their children.

Because youth sports have become about everyone getting an orange slice and a participation ribbon, parents aren’t used to seeing their child on the bench. They expect them to start because a parent usually thinks their kid is better than they really are. They see another player getting a scholarship to a college and think their kid should too.

Youth sports are expensive.  When participation becomes year-round, they’re even more expensive.  When parents invest a considerable amount of their disposable income in their kid’s athletics —  and expect a certain return on that investment (playing time or scholarship) — they’re setting themselves up for disappointment.

The emotional over-investment is a big problem.  Since youth sports have become this year-round “industry,” parents spend years shuttling their kids to practices, games, and tournaments.  All of their free time is consumed by their child’s sport. Their identity is linked with the child, and they spend most of their time with parents in the same situation. They live in a bubble with blinders on. So when their child is benched or cut it’s the coaches fault. It’s impossible for them to believe that their child has athletic shortcomings.

As parents. we all want the best for our children. But there are ways to do that other than making everyone else’s life miserable. If most of these players knew how their parents were acting, they’d be embarrassed.

A child gains nothing if they’re playing because of their parent’s influence.  They benefit more if they’ve earned it. In fact, perhaps they could gain even more if they don’t start. Life is that way. It’s unfair at times. It doesn’t always reward hard work. It doesn’t entitle anyone to anything. You don’t always get what you want.

To exert your influence and prevent your kids from experiencing this early in their lives will almost certainly handicap them in the real world where, more often than not, it doesn’t matter who your parents are.

If you don’t allow your child to fall, how will they ever learn to stand on their own two feet?

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

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.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

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