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March 1, 2018 - TCO

6 lessons parents can learn from youth sports

Being a parent of a young athlete can be really fun! For parents who grew up playing sports themselves, it’s exciting to see their child experience the game for the first time. For parents who weren’t involved in sports growing up, it can be wonderful learning about the game, becoming a part of the culture and community, and meeting many new people.

Watching your child experience the highs and lows that come with playing sports can be a humbling experience. They will be introduced to new situations, and they will experience feelings they’ve never encountered before. But the truth is, being an athlete doesn’t just teach kids life lessons. Parents can also learn a thing or two from youth sports.

1. We all make mistakes.

Mistakes are a normal part of life. Nobody is perfect, and even the greatest players, coaches, referees and fans occasionally slip up. And that’s OK! What’s more important is learning how to deal with failure.

There’s a great quote from an unknown source that says, “When you lose, don’t lose the lesson.” Every mistake is an opportunity to learn and a moment to teach. Stay positive, remind your child that mistakes are normal, and don’t be afraid to talk about times that you failed – and share what you learned from it.

2. Sports are for FUN.

In a previous article about getting kids interested in sports we learn that without question the No. 1 reason kids play sports is to have fun! No surprise, right? Yet sometimes we find ourselves getting caught up in the heat of a moment, or the momentum of a season, and our priorities shift.

Make no mistake, youth sports are, were and always will be about having fun. Kids learn to play a new game, make friends, deal with unique situations and build relationships. Parents have fun watching their children grow as individuals, and enjoy the camaraderie of being part of the team. Keep the game fun, and everybody wins.

3. One moment doesn’t define a game – or a season.

Professional sports fans often define games or seasons by a single event or moment. A missed kick, a heroic catch, a buzzer-beater, the list goes on and on. The media portrayals of professional sports can be so wrapped up in gripping narrative that we sometimes forget about the game or season itself.

The same can be true of youth sports, but it shouldn’t be. Highlights and lowlights are part of every game and season, but hanging on those individual moments is an injustice to all of the other great events that occurred. If your child thinks it was his or her fault that the team lost, or that the season is over, focus on the positives. It was an exciting game, and a fun season, and no single person is responsible for the team winning or losing any game.

For helpful tips on talking to your children about failure or losing, check out this family expert’s suggestions.

4. Great leaders, mentors and coaches boost confidence.

Great leaders and mentors are excellent communicators; they are honest and committed and most importantly they focus on positive encouragement to help others feel more confident. Parents and coaches are important leaders in their children’s lives and should strive to bring a positive attitude to every situation.

Being a great leader is hardest during stressful and frustrating moments when we are filled with emotion. During these times, you can always fall back on a simple lesson from the Positive Coaching Alliance: Honor the game. Commit to honoring the game and set an example for others to be positive, respectful and relaxed. Your child will have more fun, and so will everyone else.

5. Open-ended questions result in better conversation.

Youth sports are about learning lessons, experiencing success and failure and learning to interact with peers and adults outside of home and school. Perhaps most importantly, it’s an opportunity for parents to connect with their children on an emotional level. Use open-ended questions after practices and games to foster more-meaningful conversations.

For example, try asking, “What was your favorite part of the game?” rather than “Was it fun?”

After a bad game, or if your child is upset about a mistake, consider asking, “How did that make you feel?” as opposed to only saying, “It’s OK, you’ll do better next time.”

Be a great listener, and your child may just become a better communicator.

6. Let your kids be kids.

Many of us at TCO are parents, coaches and former players, so we understand the unique challenges placed on young athletes (and parents) today. And more than anything, we just want kids to get a chance to be kids, learn to play, stay active and lead happy, healthy lives.