September is synonymous with the return of football season and almost beckons the falling leaves and cool evenings of autumn. For thousands of young kids around the country, this time of year can be like Christmas and for others be a season to be dreaded. The attitude that your child may have about this has a lot to do with you.
I remember as a kid, wanting to play football, but my mother wouldn’t let me because she thought I was going to get hurt, and my dad seemed somewhat indifferent about this. I finally did get to play for a season of flag football in sixth grade and tackle in seventh grade, but due to my lack of exposure to the sport, I was not as prepared as other kids, even though I loved playing it in the back yard, and I spent a lot of time keeping the bench warm. I did ultimately find my gift as a soccer goalie and excelled at this, and even coached kids’ soccer teams through my high school years.
Through being a player and a coach, I have some perspectives that I feel are valuable to consider:
- Foster your kid’s passions. If they want to play a sport, find ways to encourage it, and prepare them to play it. Sometimes kids just need to try something to figure out that they do or don’t want to play it. It can also lead them to wanting to play other sports.
- Sports help your kids with coordination, physical strength and stamina and are also important to helping them work on their interpersonal skills.
- Remember that your kids playing sports is about them, not you.
- Get involved in your kids sports. You don’t have to be the coach, but try to get to their practices and especially their games. Even though they may love playing, they want you to feel proud of them too. Make sure they are not playing the sport only for you.
- Ask your kids how they are feeling about their performance. One model is to ask what they feel they did well, what they could have done better, and what they are going to do to grow. You are starting out with the positive and working from there.
- Keep your glory days out of their playing days. Share your experiences, but be careful not to overshadow theirs. If you are talking more about you to others at the game, you are missing the point of your child playing.
- Kids’ participation in sports can be strongly affected by the attitude of you and their coaches. There are thousands of promising kids who quit sports because they do not like how they are treated by over controlling and abusive coaches and parents. If you realize you and/or the coach is negatively affecting your kid’s playing experience, do something about it. There may come a time when you have to remove them from the team. There is a difference between motivation and abuse. I coached two undefeated teams and won an All-Star series without yelling at the kids I coached. I didn’t focus on winning; I focused on having fun, learning and skill improvement.
Many of us want the best for our kids. Sometimes we have to be open to changing the strategies we learned to make their lives better.