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Keeping Kids’ Sports Fun

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Kids’ sports should focus on fitness and fun.

Kids’ sports should focus on fitness and fun.

My kids and their friends were involved in all kinds of sports as they grew up. Softball, soccer, volleyball, track, swim, ballet, tennis – you name it. My girls are now in their twenties, so I actually know the outcome of all the time and money my family and their friends’ families spent on sports.

By the time my kids were juniors in high school, they had already changed their perspective on sports.  Injuries (and pressure to perform while injured), a few abrasive coaches, and inordinate demands on their time ultimately overrode their original desire to become involved in high-level competition.

Did they give up sports altogether? Not at all. They only gave up the politics, demands, and pressure.  In fact, as young women they continue to be actively involved in the sports they love.

Out of all their high school athlete friends, few actually went on to play college sports. Even fewer received a scholarship that paid enough or was for the college they wanted to attend.  Of those who did play college sports, a large majority quit after the first year. They were already burned out and did not want to make their whole college experience centered on sports.

Of those who played all four years in college, one was actually drafted by a major, professional league.  Granted, that’s pretty darn good. But that’s a mere one out of the hundreds of teen athletes my kids knew.
The point? If you could look ahead and know that your child was not going to be the next (fill in the blank), would you be inclined to make your child’s sports experiences more enjoyable?

If so, here’s what I propose:

1) Pass on the premiere or more advanced team if it means your child is going to sit most of the time on the bench. No matter what anyone says, every kid and every parent wants a good amount of playing time.

2) Change teams rather than try to change the coach.

3) Say nothing when you think a referee or umpire made a bad call. In the long run, it all evens out: Sometimes a bad call is against your team—and sometimes, your team benefits from it.

4) Stay in the present. Don’t make this season all about grooming for that future premiere league or high school or college team that your child may never even play on.

5) Explore sports groups that aren’t focused on developing superstars. For example, check out Girls on the Run International. This nonprofit organization combines a 3.1 mile running event with pre-race workouts that encourage positive social, emotional, and physical development.

Will there still be parents who pour thousands of dollars into kids’ sports with the hopes such investments will pay off some day? Of course. But as parents, we don’t have to go down that road.  We can just as easily make decisions that ensure our kids’ sports experiences are positive and fun.

Catching Our Kids Doing Good

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Kids are motivated to shine when their parents regularly “catch” them doing something positive.

Kids are motivated to shine when their parents regularly “catch” them doing something positive.

The English language is such that we say we “catch” a child in telling a lie or in making a mistake. The word “catch”  infers that we (as parents) have somehow set a trap and then—gotcha!

But what if we turned that same kind of mindset into something positive? Why not also catch kids doing something kind, thoughtful, considerate, witty, clever, creative, and more?   Imagine the child’s response if a parent says, “Wow, I just caught you being so considerate of your sister.”

Here’s a helpful idea to jumpstart (and ensure) we catch kids in shining moments.  Challenge all family members to do ten random acts of kindness over the next few days.  Establish that an act of kindness can be anything—holding the door open for someone, inviting a child (who is often left out) to join the group at recess, calling a grandparent to say hello, massaging Mom’s feet—the possibilities are endless.

Tell family members to keep a list of their random acts of kindness (younger children dictate their list to parents), and then have everyone share his or her shining moments at dinner.

From there, “catch” your child doing something positive at least two times a day.  Be forewarned: The long-term effects of doing so are quite incredible.

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