Some of you have young athletes who absolutely love sports and can’t wait to head out the door to practices and games. Others have kids who are just testing the waters and don’t know yet if they love to play.
So whether you are encouraging the passion that is already there or hoping to light a spark of sports love in your child, here are a few ways you can nurture that love.
1. Play with your child just for fun. Don’t turn it into a coaching session. Just enjoy yourself!
2. Avoid over-scheduling. Give your children plenty of free time to follow their own interests outside of sports.
3. Focus on efforts, not outcome. Praise your children for their hard work, not on the number of points they scored or the tackles they made. Focusing on his stats causes them to do the same and likely takes their minds off the fun in the process.
4. Let your children try different sports. Eventually, they will settle on the ones they really like.
5. Get to know their teammates’ families. Have barbecues, ice cream outings or other social gatherings that allow the kids to have fun outside of sports.
6. Be sure your children have time to play off the field. Let them just be kids! Research shows that unstructured playtime — when kids decide what to do and make up their own rules with their friends — helps children learn the social skills they need to become adults who know how to cooperate and get along with others.
7. Give your children ownership. Let youth sports remain youth sports. John O’Sullivan, founder of the Changing the Game Project, explains the importance of letting kids have ownership in youth sports: “Millions of kids leave sports and look for a place where their every action and every mistake is not scrutinized by an adult. That is not to say there is not a place for coaching or teaching; but good coaching does not take away autonomy. If you doubt this, then ask yourself “Why does the average teenage boy play 17 hours of video games a week?” A big part of that why is there is no one standing over his shoulder critiquing every move, and demanding that he entertain them.”
8. Allow your child the freedom to make mistakes. You don’t like your boss hounding you about mistakes, do you? Your child feels the same way. Yes, he should learn from his mistake. No, he does not need to be reminded over and over.
9. Don’t become a slave to sports. Even when you feel like your child’s busy sports schedule is ruling your life, you can still be intentional about not letting it happen. Be sure you leave room for other things in your family’s life besides sports.
If your child chooses not to play sports, that’s OK. There are plenty of ways to be active and get exercise. Find what works for your family, what your kids love, and get moving!
Janis B. Meredith is a sports parenting blogger, podcaster, and life coach. She provides resources to help parents give their children a positive and growing youth sports experience. Learn more about good sports parenting habits in her book 11 Habits for Happy & Positive Sports Parents, available on Amazon.