By Alex Perdikis
Does your child aspire to a successful high school sports career? It won’t be easy. Even at the high school level, competition for starting roles, let alone attention from college scouts. To make sure your child stands out from the rest of the pack without violating the tenets of good sportsmanship, follow these five tips.
1. Make Sure They Get in for the Right Reasons
People frequently do the right things for the wrong reasons. When it comes to youth sports, “the wrong reasons” are in the eye of the beholder. It’s hard to tell your kid not to pursue a passion because they think it’ll help them realize an unlikely goal, like starting at quarterback in the NFL. But you can certainly set their expectations upfront and guide them toward a playing career that shapes them into productive, well-rounded adults.
Here’s a tip: When your child enthuses about the athletic success he or she will enjoy in high school, college, and beyond, ask them a simple question: what are you going to do when your playing days are over?
2. Don’t Push, Guide
Kids generally don’t like to be told what to do. If your children feel like you’re forcing them into a particular sport or shaping their career in a manner contrary to their values or aspirations, they might not play ball (pun intended). No matter how much he looks up to you, the last thing your kid wants is to feel like he’s playing out your own personal sporting fantasy in real life.
Rather than push your kids to go into a particular sport or pursue a particular position on the field, let them take the reins. Ask — actually ask — what they want to do, and then set about helping them turn their dreams into reality.
3. Play at Home
Practice is integral to said reality. Not just scheduled, twice-a-week practice. Informal, unstructured, love-of-the-game practice. If you’re blessed with a backyard big enough to hold a small net or support a game of catch, great — you know what to do. If you live in an apartment or postage-stamp lot, no problem — hit the park as often as you can. The more natural it feels to play, the more your kid will embrace the game, and the likelier she’ll be to follow through as the years go on.
4. Invest in Enrichment
You only have so much time and energy to spend practicing with your kids. Good thing you can pay someone to take the load off your shoulders. No, we’re not talking about VIP football camps in faraway places, nor one-on-one instruction with retired greats. Plenty of municipal parks and rec departments and community organizations (such as the YMCA and YWCA) offer reasonably priced camps or instructional classes for popular sports: baseball, basketball, soccer, swimming. Look into what’s available in your area, block out a week of your kid’s summer or an hour after school each week, and get ready to support some mutually beneficial fun.
5. Consult With Parents and Coaches
When in doubt, ask around. Talk to fellow parents about their youth sports successes and tribulations. If they make themselves available, interview coaches or speak with league directors to get a handle on the expectations, time commitments, and costs of various youth sports options. Try to get a sense of what it’ll take for your kid to thrive in youth and high school sports, and whether there’s anything you can do to make their playing careers easier.
Are you doing anything in particular to prepare your child for a successful career in high school sports?