5 truths that will help your youth football player play well with kids from diverse backgrounds

By Janis Meredith | Posted 12/18/2017

Youth football is a great place for kids to learn how to deal with kids who are from diverse backgrounds. Whether it’s race, religion, skill level or economic status, kids come together to play football and they all have something in common: They want to have fun playing the game.

Sometimes, though, that is not enough to help them smooth over their differences. Give your youth football players some tools that will help them deal with diversity on their team. Teach them these five truths:

1. A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger

Yelling back at someone who is yelling only escalates the conflict. Show your youth football child the power in a calm answer – this means YOU have to practice it – although in some cases, it may frustrate the agitator. But if your child stays with it, calmness will eventually diffuse anger.

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2. Look for ways to build others up, not tear down

Talk to your child about the importance of spurring others toward good, not toward negativity. This means no cutting remarks about others on the team – to them or about them – no tolerance for bullying, and no disrespecting the coach or officials.

Does your child know the difference between words that build up and words that tear down? Let’s say there’s a new kid on the team who has a funny accent. Instead of laughing at that child or making fun, encourage your child to focus on the positive: Your accent is cool! Where are you from? If your child learns to take the lead in showing that acceptance, it very well could point the rest of the team in a positive direction.

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3. A person who wants friends must be friendly

Every child wants to have friends, but the first rule in making them is to be one to others, even before they are one to you. Is your child friendly to new teammates? Teammates from other countries? Teammates who are a different color? Teammates who aren’t as skilled? Teammates who come from lower-income homes? If children are friendly, my guess is they attract lots of friends.

4. Seek to understand

A person who is “different” may be wary of others, and that hesitation may come across as coldness or abrasiveness. But there is always more to someone’s story. Perhaps the child is new and feels insecure. Or maybe a child’s parents are pushy and demanding when it comes to playing sports; they want their child to be the star. Sometimes a child who is “different” may just be lacking confidence in who they are.

Seeking to understand does not necessarily mean you ask a lot of questions; it merely means that you realize that there’s usually a why behind the what and sometimes that why is pretty tough. Seeking to understand means that you treat people kindly, looking past their aloofness or their “different-ness.”

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5. Look for what you have in common

Talk to your children about the things they share with a teammate who is different: love of the sport, school, desire to do good, discouragement when mistakes are made — there’s probably a lot they have in common if your child takes the time to look for it. Finding those commonalities with teammates from diverse backgrounds can be a stepping stone to learning acceptance of everyone.

In the world of children’s play, the playing field should be level. Kids are kids, no matter their differences. Let’s nourish their pure joy of the game and their respect of everyone, no matter how different they may seem.

Janis B. Meredith is a life coach for sports parents. 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.