The days leading up to a new sport season can be exciting. Children are eager to meet their coach and look forward to playing with their friends, as well as making new friends. So what can you do to keep this fun, exciting momentum going and ensure a positive experience? Read on for some tips for a great youth sports season:
Only put your child in a sport if it's something they want. If you want your child to have a great sports experience, it will help if they want to be there. Maybe you played sports growing up and have fond memories of it. It's great that you had a positive, rewarding experience! Now, give your child the same opportunity.
Ask them which sport they want to play. The number one reason kids play sports is to have fun. If your child wants to be on a soccer team so that they can play with their friends, they're more likely to be excited to go to practices and games and stay involved in sports, which is how they will reap so many benefits. Allow your child to have their own sports experience.
Make sure your child's coach is trained. Volunteer coaches should have access to training that educates them on child abuse prevention, the psychology of coaching in youth sports, working with parents, nutrition/hydration and safety/first aid, as well as some sport specific training.
There are so many uncertainties in the world, as parents we have to do our best to keep our children safe. It's no different with sports. Knowing that your child is being coached by someone that received training in first aid and correct, safe sports techniques can bring great peace of mind!
Get a copy of the season's schedule for games and practices. When a child signs up for a sport, they are also signing up for a commitment to attend scheduled practices, games and other team events. Since they probably aren't of age to drive themselves to these events, they are dependent on you getting them there. Make sure to get a schedule of practices and games from the coach before the season begins so you can see if there are any conflicts between the team’s season and your family's schedule.
Also, ask the coach what their attendance policy is and if they'll excuse things like vacations, weddings, illness, etc. Work these scheduling conflicts out ahead of time so your child isn't left paying the price (less playing time, missing a big game).
Leave playing instructions to the coach. I recently read a blog where a sport parent/blogger justified calling out plays and tips to his son from the stands as his way of dealing with the stress of watching his son play during crucial moments. I have a son myself and understand how parents can get blinded by desire for their child to excel, but like I mentioned before, let your child have their own sports experience.
Simply put, youth sports aren't about the parents. It's about the kids. Let them receive the instruction and criticism from their coach. What kids really need from their parents is to know that they are there to support and love them through wins and losses. Encouraging your child from the stands? Yes. Shouting advice to your child about how they should play? Skip it.
Model good behavior. Sports offer a wonderful opportunity for children to learn so many life skills that they can take with them throughout life. They can learn about teamwork, perseverance and discipline – and many more! However, these life skills don't come automatically. In part, they come from watching how you, their coach and other adults in the program act. So if you're tempted to ask the ref if he's blind or demand the coach put your son in the game at a crucial point, think again about who's watching you.
Bonus! Since we like our blog readers so much (and want to shamelessly plug a new initiative) another tip for a great sports season is to join our Sports Parent Pledge. If you're reading this article, I'm sure you're interested in giving your child the best sports experience possible, and the pledge will help you do so. After you sign up for the pledge you will receive weekly actionable tips and resources designed to enhance your family’s time in sports. It's free! Click here to get started!
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the National Alliance for Youth Sports.
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