Little League season is upon us and after working the radar gun event at a local Opening Day Ceremony, I was taken back by the amount of support that this league showed its players and how much fun the players had. As a teacher and a coach, it is interesting to watch how kids interact and perform in the classroom and on the court or field. In my classroom, I have made a prominent push to incorporate project-based learning on a regular basis. In my opinion, my role as a teacher is to teach students the skills necessary to survive and be successful in the workplace while giving them avenues to try, practice, and develop these skills. With project based learning, after the basics are taught and once I get out of the way, students have a tendency to “wow” me with their ingenuity, viewpoints, and tenacity in which they approach the project. However, I have noticed much less engaging results from a preaching or traditional classroom setting with the exact same students. The only difference is my level of involvement.
I see similar situations as a coach and casual observer at games. I look at sports games as a very similar situation to project-based learning. A coach teaches their players the fundamental skills of the game and implements a game plan to give the game a loose feel in terms of how they want it to go. The players have to utilize their skills and work together in order to win. However, many times, players feel trapped, embarrassed, or even scared to step out of their comfort zone. Too often, the reason for that is an overbearing parent or coach. I remember a game in high school when my teammate’s father just started yelling at us trying to coach us from the stands. The dad had never been at a practice, but felt the need to tell us what to do and how to do it. I’ve never heard my parents at a game, regardless of how loud they yelled or what they said, but I remember this guy and I remember having one of the worst games of my career. I couldn’t get him out of my head. Your kid may be able to tune you out (and if so, what’s the point in doing anything but cheering) but what impact are you having on the other players on the team?
99.99% of youth athletes are not going pro and 97% of high school athletes do not play in college, meaning that the reason kids should play sports should be to have fun. Competing, winning, character building, etc. are all part of the experience but the parent’s role is to make sure that your child has a positive learning experience. Here are some tips for ensuring that your child enjoys their time playing sports.
Relax. It is just a game. I know it seems important now, but in the grand scheme of things, a little league game is pretty insignificant.
Define success with your child. Depending on their goals and abilities, it may be winning the game, getting 5 assists, being a good teammate, or just getting on base. Make success attainable yet challenging. Attaining success should show development as a player and a person.
It’s all about the process. The goal of youth sports is to develop young athletes into better players and people. Rather than focusing on wins and losses, focus on the new skills they have developed. Focus on how they deal with adversity. Focus on developing their love for the game.
Live in the moment. According to the book, Parental Involvement in Youth Sports: The Good, Bad, and the Ugly, by Sean Coming and Martha Ewing, sports psychologists at Michigan State University, any time the words, "scholarship" or "professional" pop into a parent's head and their child is younger is not in high school, those words should be immediately replaced with "fun" and "learning," Then repeat "fun" and "learning" as many times it takes to remove the unrealistic thoughts from your head. All it does is put unnecessary stress on your child.
When both coaches and parents are able to share these goals and get on the same page, they are able to provide a positive and enriching experience for their kids. That is the goal, right? If you are looking for a great sports summer camp that holds these values first and foremost, check out Next Level Sports Camp. Our #1 priority is providing a unique and positive experience for each camper!