During the summer months, parents probably play outside with our children more than at any other time of the year. Unlike during the school year, days are longer, temperatures are warmer and evening commitments are fewer.
Like many youth sports parents, I find myself trying to coach my child while we’re playing in the backyard. My son wants to play quarterback when he’s playing touch football, but I want him working on his receiving skills. He wants to play baseball, a sport he does not play formally. I think he should be playing basketball since he actually belongs to a league in the winter. I try to work on technique no matter the sport. He just wants to have fun. I get stressed out when he doesn’t want to listen. He gets upset when I won’t stop coaching.
Children need to play, and it needs to be fun. If it’s not fun, they will lose interest. Playing is important at any age. How many of us would play the recreational sports we do (golf, tennis, etc.) if every time we swung the club or racquet someone was correcting our technique?
Summer is the perfect time to start letting your child dictate how to spend time playing, that is, of course, if it’s safe.
I asked my son why he plays kickball at recess since it’s a sport he does not play in a formal league, and his response was, “Because it’s fun.” During recess, there are no coaches, no parents, no officials and no pressure. Kids can make up the teams and the rules to make sure they have fun.
The same should happen at home, and not just during the summer.
If you’re wondering why all of a sudden your child does not want to play football with you, think back to the last few times you were outside playing together. Did you spend more time coaching than just being a parent? Did you dictate what the two of you would play and how it should be played? If so, you may have taken the fun out of your child’s play.
The next time you go outside to play with your child, try to make an honest effort to let your child decide what you’ll play and make the rules. Don’t correct, explain or demonstrate unless you’re asked. You might be surprised how much fun you’ll have together.
Lastly, don’t be upset if they choose to play kickball with friends and don’t ask you to be the steady pitcher.
Jon Buzby has been involved in and writing about youth sports for the past 30 years with perspectives as a parent, coach and board member. Jon is an award-winning writer and his latest book, “Coaching Kids Made Easier,” is available on Amazon. Send comments or future blog topics you'd like to see to JonBuzby@hotmail.com and follow him @YouthSportsBuzz on Twitter.