A National Alliance for Youth Sports resource helping coaches, parents and administrators provide the best youth sports experiences for children.
By Greg Bach
Zach Parise, All-Star winger for the Minnesota Wild and a two-time U.S. Olympian, vividly recalls his car rides home from practices and games as a youngster.
Games weren’t dissected.
Mistakes weren’t analyzed.
And poor performances weren’t scrutinized.
“My dad wouldn’t talk about hockey on the way back from a practice or a game,” Parise says. “He didn’t think it would be a good idea if I made a mistake for him to come tell me I made a mistake.”
Instead, the focus was on if Parise had fun at the rink that day.
Yes, the fun factor in youth sports is harped on non-stop, but the elite athletes in the major sports continually tell us that it really did make a difference in their development.
It’s important, it matters – and should never be taken lightly.
“For learning he asked if we had fun and that’s where the conversation ended,” Parise says. “To me that was great. There was never any pressure coming from them.”
Free to make mistakes without the fear of facing post-game criticism from his parents, Parise’s skills blossomed.
And his love and passion for the game grew.
Reflecting on those youth sports experiences – he played baseball, golf, tennis, soccer and hockey – Parise sees how valuable that home environment was in his childhood and urges parents of young players today to let them have fun participating – and refrain from pressuring and criticizing.
“Don’t put pressure on them,” he says. “Let them have fun. They’re young kids. Let them enjoy the game. That’s how they’re going to develop.”
Helping children learn life lessons through failure and disappointment that everyone experiences while competing is an important role for coaches and parents to handle. Are you ready for it?
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Press Box (weekly e-newsletter)
The Press Box is a weekly e-newsletter bringing you the latest news stories in youth sports, research on youth athlete safety and wellness, and more. Stories are carefully curated to bring subscribers only the best quality content and news.