Good Sports: Helping Young
Athletes Keep Fun in the Game
When her son was playing travel soccer, Stephanie Schwartz of Chappaqua, New York, organized a scrimmage between players and their parents. "It was great for everyone," says Stephanie, "because it wasn't competitive -- it was just in the spirit of having a good time." The game also yielded an unexpected benefit: perspective. Kate Stone Lombardi, whose son also played on the team, considered the game a natural cure for poor sideline behavior. "Try playing soccer," she says, "and you'll never again yell out instructions or criticisms."
Three families share their strategies for making a good season even better.
"Whenever my 10-year-old, Ella, has an away game, we look for ways to make the experience fun for everyone, including our younger daughter, Maisie. We look at a map and try to find a place to go before or after the game -- a hike, a cool new restaurant -- so it feels like a family adventure."
-- FamilyFun Creative Development Director Deanna F. Cook
"When my son, Daniel, was 11, I wanted to make sure he understood that winning wasn't all that mattered in sports. So I posted this quote from Grantland Rice, 'the dean of American sportswriters,' on the fridge, so that Daniel could check it out before each soccer game: 'For when the One Great Scorer comes / To write against your name, / He marks -- not that you won or lost -- / But how you played the game.'"
-- Jennifer Greene, Bellport, New York
"Before each of my daughter Lily's soccer and softball games, I always made a point to ask which of her friends was on the opposing team. This not only encouraged a sense of sportsmanship, it also stressed the social nature of the event."
-- L. G. P.
Those emotional moments after a tough game can be as hard on parents as they are on kids. Here are some tips from Cal Ripken Jr., Baseball Hall of Famer and coauthor of Parenting Young Athletes the Ripken Way, to help you deliver a positive postgame analysis.
- "Don't critique the game in the heat of the moment, when emotions might still be raw," suggests Ripken. If you've got constructive criticism, wait a day or two to deliver it.
- Find something to praise: a great play, strong effort, improved skill, sportsmanship. What your child really wants to hear after the game is how well he performed.
- Offer a praise sandwich. "Start and end a conversation with positive reinforcement, mixing constructive criticism in between," Ripken suggests.