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Encouraging Your Child To Play Sports

Finding Solutions To Get Your Child Excited About Playing Sports

There is a gaping wound in youth sports that's created a much-ignored crisis. I'm referring to society's outrageous need to take our children and create champions, MVPs and select or travel team players.

The fact that more than 70 percent of all young children who begin participating in youth sports quit by the age of 12 is appalling. Unfortunately, there are signs that this percentage may continue to grow, resulting in an even more sedentary lifestyle than ever for an increasing number of kids.

Time for a Change

Perhaps, like me, you are the parent of a young child and worry about how your child will fare when he or she is ready to participate in sports. With all the negative events that occur today on our children's playing fields, the time has come for a new and proven structure that eliminates all of the off-putting aspects from youth sports and, instead, emphasizes the positive. It's time for real solutions – not discussions – and the solutions lie in a non-traditional approach.

The most compelling evidence that change is needed can be found in the following facts:

  • Kids are seeing no significant improvement in their skills and on-field performance.
  • Practices are disorganized and boring.
  • Too many kids are sitting on the bench with little or no opportunity to play.
  • There is a 15 percent chance that violence will break out at youth games or practices.
  • There is a greater than 70 percent chance that your child will drop out of organized team sports by the age of 12.

Youth sports have unfortunately become a monumental stage for adult entertainment and fulfillment. Whether it's to relive their childhood experiences or erase past athletic disappointments, some parents expect their children to excel to compensate for their own inadequacies. In order to see any improvements in youth sports, we must stop forcing kids to play adult versions of games.

Forget the Scoreboard

On October 25, FAIR PLAY DAY, parents are being asked to forget the scoreboard and consider several non-traditional, yet tested and successful, new approaches to youth sports. Imagine for a moment a season of no games, yet plenty of healthy competition where every child plays and improves his or her skills. Discover an entirely new format for practicing that enhances every child's ability and advances everyone to the next skill level.

Take these suggested approaches and adapt them to your child's league, discuss them with other parents or apply them to your own recreation time with your children.

1. Get involved.

Rather than stand on the sidelines watching, become engaged as a teacher of the game. Approach your child's league with other parents and ask to be assigned different teaching responsibilities at each practice. Gather the correct tools to teach one or two skills within an organized structure for an entire season. You will become a useful resource for your kids and help create a better and more interactive learning environment for everyone.

2. Hold league-wide practices/clinics.

Forget tradition. Rather than conducting single team practices, approach your child's league about setting aside one day or evening each week in which the entire league gets together and conducts a skill-oriented practice session or clinic. As a parent volunteer, you can attend and participate with other parents and be given assigned responsibilities to teach specific fundamentals.

3. Let kids decide.

Individualism and creativity are missing from traditional organized sports – another reason kids get disenchanted and drop out. Letting them create their own games or work on the skill of their choice gives them an ownership stake in their own development. It makes for happy kids and happy parents.

4. Let kids coach.

The most important role of any parent or coach is to teach and prepare players for eventual competition. Empower kids and coach them to manage their own game experiences. You will be greatly rewarded in witnessing your child taking on this responsibility, and you will be teaching your team a valuable skill. As a coach, if you have taught the game properly, there is no need for you to hang close by at game time. Take an active role as an advisor during games (timeouts, halftimes, between innings, etc.) to teach with positive reinforcement.

5. Establish a parent representative.

Most parents find themselves frustrated with their child's sports experience, yet they struggle to find tactful ways to approach the coach to create a dialogue and make suggestions. Gather all team parents together and discuss your observations and concerns. Then assign one person to sit down with the coach to talk it over. This will provide valuable feedback to a coach and open a line of communication that will prevent future misunderstandings.

By following these suggestions, parents can help return youth sports to what they are supposed to be: a chance to learn new skills, develop teamwork and self-esteem and just have fun.

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