Good Sports: Helping Young
Athletes Keep Fun in the Game
"A parent's job is to be encouraging and positive," says Bob Bigelow, author of "Just Let the Kids Play." Negative or angry comments -- directed at a coach, an official, a player -- take the fun out of the game and can be very distracting for young athletes. Cheering is fine, but don't bother offering advice from the sidelines. "Children playing games of motion make two decisions a second," explains Bigelow. So it's unlikely that they'll even be able to process what you're saying in the heat of the game.Put Winning in Perspective
"Between the ages of five and twelve, your top priority should be helping your child develop a passion for athletic activity," says Rick Wolff. That means emphasizing the fun of team sports over winning or losing. In fact, advises Richard Ginsburg, your kids will get a lot more out of the game if you "expand the definition of winning and reframe losing as an opportunity to learn." And keep in mind that the real goal of youth sports isn't scoring points, but growing an athlete. That's what coach and manager Cal Ripken Sr. did, and it produced not one but two Major League ballplayers. "My dad exposed me and my brother, Billy, to the game," says Cal Ripken Jr. "and then let us find our passion for it" -- a winning game plan for sports-loving families, in and out of the major leagues.Sideline Smarts: A beginner's guide to helping young athletes keep the fun in the game
The best way to teach sportsmanship? Model it yourself at every game. Here's how:
- Support the entire team, not just your child, advises author Brooke de Lench. "Choose cheers that compliment the team as a whole," she says.
- Cheer for the other team too. You'll be sending the message that sports are about effort and fun, not just winning, says Shane Murphy, sports psychologist and author of "The Cheers and the Tears: A Healthy Alternative to the Dark Side of Youth Sports Today."
- Don't critique the players. "Negative remarks have a way of reverberating through the crowd and undermining the teamwork on the field," says de Lench.
- Thank the officials and coaches. "If you keep it up," suggests Murphy, "your example is sure to spread to other parents on your team."
- Talk to parents on the opposing team, Murphy says. "They're not the enemy."