As a parent, team manager and former student athlete himself, Alex Perdikis knows about the benefits of kid team sports. He also realizes that parents have the power to make team sports a fun and healthy activity or create a living nightmare where children drop out. Here is a practical guide for parents that outline best practices that build interest, encourage and support children who play team sports.
Pushing: Yes or No?
It’s not a problem if your child shows an interest in and has an aptitude for a team sport. No need to push. But, what if your child shows no interest? You know the benefits. Sports builds confidence, teaches people skills, develops problem-solving skills and promotes an active and healthy lifestyle. Children who participate in team sports are less likely to abuse drugs or alcohol or become obese. They also tend to get better grades. With all of those advantages, why shouldn’t you push?
A little encouragement may not be a bad thing. Far from a “push,” encouragement includes different techniques to draw your child out and perhaps open the door to interest. Here are some ways to open your child up to the possibility of playing a team sport:
- Go to games and practices as observers: Children are frightened of the unknown. Getting them comfortable with the game atmosphere, team play and environment removes the fear of the unknown.
- Play in your own backyard: No pressure, play for fun backyard games can reveal hidden talent and set the stage for more organized competitions in the future. Whether it’s baseball, soccer, basketball or football, kid team sports should be first and foremost fun.
- Talk about it: It may not be a total lack of interest that stops your child from playing a team sport. They may simply be unsure. A few words and strategic questions can steer children the right way. For example, ask if any of your child’s friends play on a team. If so, would your child like to try, too? If you think your child might benefit from a specific sport, ask how the child feels about it. Discuss what your child likes and dislikes about the sport. Be positive and keep the focus on them, not about how proud you would be.
They’re In! Now What?
A recent study done by George Washington University associate professor Amanda Visek found a dramatic drop in the rates of children participating in team sports. Another study found that 70 percent who do play drop out by the age of 13. The top reason? Playing was no longer fun, and it was because of their parents. Parents couldn’t stop coaching, took over the experience and lived and died with the team’s wins and losses. It’s the duty of parents to encourage, support and keep it fun. Leave coaching to the coaches.