A National Alliance for Youth Sports resource helping coaches, parents and administrators provide the best youth sports experiences for children.
Sage parenting advice
By Greg Bach
In Sage Steele’s household the rules are pretty simple when it comes to sports for her three kids: They have to play them.
And they have to try a variety of them.
“In our house you have no choice and it’s not because I’m a sportscaster,” says Steele, the long-time ESPN announcer, NBA Countdown host and mom of three. “And it’s not because I was a great athlete, because I wasn’t. There are so many life lessons in playing sports and here’s the thing: I just don’t think it can hurt. It can’t hurt to get out there and try. Life is about experiences and kids learn so much about themselves.”
Steele struggled with painful shyness as a child, but once her parents got her involved in sports like equestrian and track and field her life changed forever. You can read more about that impact in PART I of our interview with her.
“What if I hadn’t had the opportunity to try equestrian?” says Steele, who spoke with SportingKid Live from her Scottsdale, Ariz., home. “Confidence wise what that gave me, and what track and field gave me, even though I wasn’t even close to being offered a scholarship, what that gave me was priceless. I would not have been able to achieve my dream, my career goal; not because it’s sports broadcasting but it’s broadcasting and working with other people and having a team at your office. I don’t care what industry you are in, there’s no way I would have been prepared for that and I don’t think there is any way I would have been as good as I am without sports.”
REMEMBER: IT’S ABOUT YOUR CHILD NOW – NOT YOU
Steele ran track throughout high school, competing in the 800, mile relay and 300-meter hurdles. And she looks back fondly on those experiences and the friendships and team bonds that were forged.
But now it’s about her kids, supporting their experiences and understanding that this is their time.
“I wish I would have worked harder to maybe be a better athlete to maybe be able to compete in college,” Steele says. “But it’s not about me or my husband, it’s about our children right now.”
Steele’s oldest daughter runs track and in today’s youth sports climate where far too many parents pressure kids and pile on the criticism she offers up a refreshing attitude on what youth sports parenting should be all about: “If I know she started a race maybe a little too quickly where she didn’t have enough gas at the end I just bite my tongue,” she says. “Sometimes you need to just tell yourself to zip it and leave it for another time and just bask in the glory of the fact that they are proud of themselves that they did their best.”
TRY IT – YOU MAY LIKE IT
“It was a concerted effort and decision on our part to tell them you must be a part of a team sport,” Steele says of her and husband’s emphasis on the importance of their children trying a variety of sports. “They don’t always like it. I forced my youngest on the swim team and she complained at first and now she begs to go every day. You kind of have to not listen to your kids sometimes and make them do things, but then of course re-evaluate. But make them try and then go from there. It’s just experiences and how do you know unless you try?”
THE BENEFITS OF TAKING INSTRUCTIONS FROM OTHERS
“You know what, I enjoyed taking orders from my coaches much more than my parents, though I wasn’t going to admit it,” Steele says. “It’s very healthy for your kids to take instruction from someone other than their parents and their teachers. I think it’s crucial. It’s one of the few requirements we should have as parents when we have children – make sure our kids go try different sports.”
THE VALUE OF THE EXPERIENCE
“It doesn’t matter if they’re great – just get them out there,” Steele says. “Get them out there with other kids and with other coaches who are going to hold them accountable.”
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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