Unsurprisingly, the Basement Sports team is big on youth sports. Participation in sporting activities yields numerous health benefits for kids and helps develop vital social skills. Sadly, too many children walk away from sports unsatisfied, or are discouraged from participating in the first place. For this reason, we propose the following best practices for parents who want their kids to get the most out of youth sports.
Remember that winning is only one of the goals. “If parents constantly pressure [kids] to play better or second-guess their every move, kids get the message that they’re only as good as their last good play,” says Steven Dowshen, MD. “Adults who emphasize good sportsmanship, however, see winning as just one of several goals they’d like their kids to achieve. They help young athletes take pride in their accomplishments and in their improving skills, so that the kids see themselves as winners, even if the scoreboard doesn’t show the numbers going in their favor.”
Look at the child for who they are. “Many parents now see their kids’ athletic achievements as a reflection on themselves,” says Kara Newhouse of MindShift. Consequently, perceived shortcomings on the part of young athletes feel like personal failures. To shift the focus back to kids, allow them to take the lead. In other words, kids should be the ones deciding what to play, when to play, or if to play an organized sport. Finally, if they do decide to move forward with a sport, parents should observe and listen to their experiences, and keep their needs front and center.
Take things down a notch. “I gained a lot from sports,” says sports parent and former youth athlete Samm Davidson. “And I worry that today, we are weeding so many of the kids out too soon. Games feel serious, stressful and high-stakes which likely discourages a lot of kids from joining. And it sucks that those same kids then miss out on the actually important things about sports — the building of character, camaraderie, and friendship . . . So maybe all of us parents could make a pact to chill out.”
Approached properly, youth sports can be a wonderful opportunity for children and parents and alike. We hope our guidance proves helpful to that end.
Got any tips of your own? Feel free to send them our way!