Family & Parenting

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How to be a good youth sports parent

Extracurricular and summer season sports leagues keep thousands of children occupied. Youth sports promote physical fitness and teamwork while helping children acquaint themselves with sportsmanship and camaraderie.

The Journal of Sports Medicine says three out of four American families with school-aged children have at least one child playing an organized sport. While many kids play just for recreation, others play competitively.
Sports are meant to be sources of enjoyment for children, but parental pressure and poor adult behavior on the sidelines can make kids reluctant to compete. Parents who behave poorly may inadvertently pass on bad habits to their children or cause kids to prematurely abandon their athletic pursuits. The following are a few tips for parents who want to encourage their kids' passions for sports in positive ways.

• Show respect for coaches and officials. Parents should not act like they are the final authority on calls or how team members should play. Respect should always be shown to coaches and referees.

• Let your child have fun regardless of his or her performance. Too often parents get swept up in how their children are performing when the goal for young athletes should be to enjoy themselves. Resist the urge to focus on performance and focus instead of whether or not your child is having fun.

• Recognize college scholarships may not be in the cards. Although some children are destined for athletic greatness, many will not play sports after high school. Pressuring older children to improve their performance in the hopes of landing college scholarships can make the little time they do have to play their favorite sports less enjoyable.

• Take cues from the child. Children are often great indicators of parental behavior at sporting events. Parents whose children seem unenthusiastic about mom and dad attending their sporting events may be trying to tell you they don't appreciate your behavior at the games.

• Provide constructive criticism. Early coaching and practice with parents can give kids a leg up on the competition. But keep your advice constructive. Parents who become pushy or force constant practices can make sports unenjoyable.

• Place emphasis on fun and learning skills. Find out what the kids hope to accomplish by playing sports and help them to achieve those goals. Focus on being supportive rather than emphasizing winning, as doing so can help children view sports participation in a more positive light.

If children seem to have lost interest in sports, parents can ask why in an effort to make sports fun again or encourage other pursuits. Many sports now require year-round participation, which can cause burnout in some youngsters. Sometimes a brief break and some fine-tuning may be all that's needed to rekindle a child's passion for sports.