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Sports are enjoyable...
Sports are fun...
Sports are exciting....
All positive sentiments, aren't they? Well, in theory, that is what they should be. We have all heard how positive, in so many different regards, that sport can and should be in a participant's life. Individuals start playing youth sports as early as four years old and continue playing well into their social security years. (We have a few of those guys playing in our adult rec hockey league!)
Sports are supposed to be all of those things. After all, it is a GAME that is played, right? You spend time with friends, make new ones, have a snack or two and have stories to tell for the rest of your life. We especially like to think these sentiments are true when kids are playing.
Unfortunately, some kids are not enjoying their sports experiences as much as we think, or hope. A survey done by i9 Sports suggests that are some issues that we need to be aware of when it comes to kids enjoying their athletic experiences.
Of 300 children surveyed (8 - 14 years old), 84 percent said that they wish they had more fun playing sports. 84 percent also said that they wanted to quit at one time because of a variety of reasons; lack of enjoyment, conflicts with teammates, too many practices. Close to one third said that they would rather not have their parents watch their games.
There is such a negative connotation with parents and their involvement in their kids' sports that some youth sports leagues have made rules, or at least highly suggest that the parents coming to games not do any cheering at all. Some feel that silencing parents will ease the pressure some of their comments put on the kids.
The study also showed that 42 percent of kids would rather play video games than play sports. The following are more than startling numbers to me; 20 percent said that they have seen a physical fight between players, 59 percent had seen a verbal fight between players, and 36 percent had seen a verbal fight between parents.
Some tough numbers to swallow, for sure and can help explain why some kids do not enjoy their sports experience as they should.
I believe kids can enjoy being involved in a youth soccer, youth football, youth baseball, youth hockey, etc. league, but there needs to be a complete commitment from the entire sports community. So, what are some things that can contribute to a positive youth sports experience?
First, the negativity needs to be put to a halt. That comes from both parents and coaches. .
As parents, we just need to think a little bit before we say what we want to say to our kids. You are toughest on your own and it is hard not to be right to the point when talking to your son or daughter about their sports experience. After they have struck out three times with the bases loaded, your own frustration might come out when talking to that player after the game.
"You left a ton of guys on base tonight" might add more fuel to an already smoldering fire of frustration and disappointment that your child is already feeling. How about commenting on their 'at bats', instead? Were they swinging and missing? If so, perhaps comment on the fact that they were up there trying to get a hit and maybe just faced a tough pitcher.
Even better, ask open ended questions. Have the child tell you how they felt about their performance. Try and be as matter of fact as possible when asking, too. Your child comprehends what a poor performance is and what is not.
If he or she offers up some part of their game that is lacking, offer to try and help in some way. "Boy, that guy was throwing so fast tonight. I just couldn't get my bat around fast enough." Maybe, jump in with an offer to throw batting practice, or take him or her to a local batting cage and turn up the speed to get them used to faster pitches.
I'm a parent and a coach. I get caught up in some of this, as well. You feel like your child, or a player that you are coaching, can do better. In the heat of the moment out comes "What kind of a play was that?", rather than being calm and thinking of a 'teaching' moment you can bring to that situation. That might be after the inning is over, the game is over or the next practice.
My daughter struggled on the community swim team when she swam competitively for a few years. She started swimming late, by competitive standards, and was not a natural swimmer. My goal was to think before I spoke and find some ways to be positive, encouraging and also to try and help her want to get better. It was a lot of fun for her. She gained some great friends and had a good sports experience. It wasn't all me, either. She had coaches who worked with her and other parents who were constant streams of support for her, as well.
She has gained an interest in tennis now, at age <a href= 1 ">1 3, in hopes of trying to play competitively in the next couple of years. I love my daughter dearly but she's not the most gifted athlete.
After squirming in my chair and rubbing my forehead a number of times as I saw her swing and miss at multiple balls tossed to her in drills, I took a deep breath and a moment before talking to her about her first session. That especially hit home as I saw her walking off of the court with a big smile on her face. Instead of hammering her on how timid she seemed or on how she wasn't focusing on the ball hitting the racket (after the fifth mis-hit in a row), I took another approach.
After seeing that smile, I realized she had fun, so I asked her if she indeed enjoyed herself. When she emphatically said "Yes!" I threw in a couple of open ended questions. I asked her first what she thought were her strengths and then what she thought she needed to work on for the next session. This gave her an opportunity to express herself objectively and reinforcing to herself the good and the challenging aspects of her game.
I am convinced that you can be a positive influence on your kids and a sense of encouragement without quashing their ability to improve and compete. I do not think that those two concepts are mutually exclusive. However, I believe that those harsh streaks can be hard to overcome, but as anything, if it is something you work on consistently that mindset can be changed for the better.