It is well understood that youth sports is a team effort, but that team isn't just limited just to the players and the coach. Parents have much to offer their young athlete no matter the amount of their prior experience. The team works best when it works together to solve problems and has reasonable expectations. One way to help the team work together is to avoid five questions that parents sometimes ask of their child:
- Don't ask your child to play on a team without their friends. - For kids, being around their friends is an important part of youth sports. Kids routinely make their sports decisions based on where their friends are playing. The more friends a child has on a team, the more likely they are to try hard. Alternatively, if a child has few friends on the team, a parent can often help by hosting or sponsoring a team party to enable their child to get to know the other players better.
- Don't ask your child to play the same sport year round. - Just like kids need to play different positions to develop their mental understanding of the game, they also need to play multiple sports to develop their overall physical capabilities. Encouraging a variety of sports over different seasons keeps things interesting for the child and helps them develop physically to their fullest potential.
- Don't ask your child to feel grateful for your taking them to practice. - Youth sports works best when it is a family effort rather than just a child effort. Practice and game times are opportunities to share as well as opportunities for play. Watching and supporting practice time is just as valuable to a child as watching and supporting a game and should be mutually rewarding for both parent and child.
- Don't ask your child to exercise if you won't. - At any age, a healthy lifestyle involves regular physical exercise. While playing sports, kids (especially older kids) often need to exercise away from practice to develop stamina, quickness or strength. If parents want to encourage this exercise, the best way is by sharing the experience rather than just measuring the experience.
- Don't ask your child to understand the game if you don't. - Young players getting started in a sport often get discouraged early because they don't have a clear understanding of their role. Parents can help their child tremendously by helping them understand the basics of the game and working with them on drills. There are numerous books in every sport designed to educate new players and spectators. Parents should utilize these resources to improve the chances of a youth sports success.
Just like adults, kids desire time with their friends, seek a variety of experiences, appreciate the interest of others, like sharing difficult tasks and want someone to share conversation. Parents and kids have more in common than they think but have different ways of expressing it. By coming together as a team, parents and children can improve the experience for everyone.