As your child enters middle school sports from elementary school, the game changes–and it stays the same. It becomes more competitive and skilled athletes become more serious about their game. But the one constant is fun and growth.
Here are a few suggestions that should help you and your child have a great middle school sports experience:
Your child should still have fun.
At this age, your child should learn about what is fun within the context of a competitive team setting. To put it simply, fun is being good – good at what you do, good in your behavior, good in how you treat others, good in how you practice and play. Your child needs to learn that fun and hard work can play on the same field.
Your child is not a robot.
Kids will have good and bad games, make great plays and big mistakes. It’s all part of the learning process – so please be patient. Their emotions are sometimes hard to control. What they need most from you are support and encouragement.
Your child is learning how to be a teammate.
Middle school athletes should be learning how to keep a positive attitude even after making a mistake, how to be disciplined and challenge themselves, and what it means to be part of a team.
When your child comes to you with a frustration, use this opportunity to help him grow as an athlete and an individual. These difficulties are all part of the process of learning how to play on a team and learning how to be a good teammate.
Your child should learn the importance of working hard.
Kids who put more time into learning and working hard have a much better chance at success at their sport. While not all kids will become the next LeBron James, Alex Morgan, or Tom Brady, the only way to improve is to put time and effort into practicing and playing. The kids who put in the most time usually end up being the better-skilled players.
Equal playing time is no longer automatic.
Middle school is usually when the truth hits athletes: Athletes will not play equally. The more-skilled players usually play more, as long as they come to practice, work hard, and are great teammates.
Help your child control the controllable.
Help him focus on the process, which he can control–practice, working, paying attention, being coachable, being a great teammate–instead of outcomes, which he can’t–scoreboard, missing a scoring opportunity, not playing much or well. When they have success, reward them with a comment like, “Great job at finishing strong. All that work that you put in is paying off!” and “Way to hang tough and keep a great attitude when things were getting rough out there. You have really become someone your teammates can count on!” When they struggle, focus more on perseverance or some other quality that helps them to deal with adversity.
In Middle School sports, the process continues
Middle school sports parents, remember that the scoreboard only says so much. Your child is still learning and sometimes that is a painfully slow process. Your patience and persistence are required if you want to see your child enjoy and grow through the youth sports journey.
Janis B. Meredith is a sportsparenting blogger, podcaster, and life coach. She provides resources to help parents give their children a positive and growing youth sports experience. Her book 11 Habits for Happy & Positive Sports Parents is available on Amazon.