By Greg Bach
Navigating today’s youth sports terrain is as challenging as ever for parents these days.
There are tough decisions to be made about choosing the right programs, and mind-boggling piles of information to sift through regarding concussions, injury prevention, and more.
Plus, it’s easy to get swept up in the excitement of games and lose sense of what it’s all about.
“We need to keep youth sports in perspective,” says Sharkie Zartman, co-author of #HeySportsParents! with Dr. Robert Weil. “There are a lot of things that kids can learn in sports and we have to focus on our kids – not our goals for them. This is their time, and this should be a positive experience. As parents, too many times we focus on the championships, the winning, the medals, the awards and the college scholarships when instead we should be focusing on how our kids can be more successful in life by playing sports.”
Zartman has spent a lifetime in sports as a world class athlete, coach and mom of athletes. She fell in love with volleyball at an early age and later starred at UCLA and on the U.S. National Team. She helped the Bruins win the school’s first national championship in volleyball, was an All-American performer and even had her jersey retired.
She teamed up with Weil, a well-known sports podiatrist who has treated elite athletes in a variety of sports, to produce this book geared to helping parents better understand a wide range of issues pertaining to youth sports.
“We want to help sports parents enjoy the process and to enjoy their kids, and for the kids to enjoy playing as much as they can,” Zartman says. “A lot of kids are dropping out of sports because they are feeling so much pressure from parents and it’s not fun.”
The book is broken down into four sections. In the first section Zartman addresses the values and pitfalls of playing sports, finding the best program for your child and stress management for parents, among others.
“There are a lot of different programs out there and I think that parents sometimes don’t know how to find the right program for their child at a particular time,” Zartman says. “Some kids are ready to go into competitive programs sooner than others and I think a lot of times parents feel like they have to get their kids into these competitive programs as soon as possible and a lot of times these kids aren’t ready; they don’t have the self-esteem and they don’t have the skills and they are feeling the pressure. So, I think that parents really do need to find a program that’s a good fit for their child and then they have to make sure the child wants to play the sport. A lot of times what happens is that parents get their kids into sports because they think it will be good for them and the child doesn’t even want to play.”
Section Two, written by Weil, covers everything from injury prevention to choosing the best shoes for a young athlete.
Section Three features insight from a variety of top experts on the seven habits of savvy sports parents, what parents need to know about concussions, and more. It includes contributions from Robert Andrews, Kate Davis, Denise McDermott, Holly Benjamin, Ian Goldberg, Dr. Dave Epperson, Melissa Orth Fray, Janis Meredith and Dr. Steve Horwitz; and Section Four provides parent perspectives from moms and dads – Kirk Mango, Cat Dols, Nancy Ryan, Timmer Halligan and Zartman – who have raised young athletes who have excelled at elite levels of competition.
“These days we hear so often how parents are all stressed out and the kids don’t want to play anymore,” Zartman says. “I hate seeing this happen because there are so many wonderful things that sports offer. They can really be a fun experience for both the parents and the kids, but I see too many families that sometimes don’t get to enjoy the ride.”
#HeySportsParents! is a helpful guide to make that journey a much smoother and fun-filled one for everyone involved.
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