Child sports is encouraged in the US, much more than in any other country I’ve visited so far. Having grown up in a family that lived and loved sport, I grew up in a competitive environment and most activity we did together was done outdoors. We were always running about, playing some sport or the other and when we were too few for organized sport, we’d make up our own game.
When I first had kids, my wife and I struggled with the role sports played in our lives. She was from a family who preferred more intellectual pursuits during their free time. The wife is fiercely independent and self-motivated. She was, at first, overwhelmed by the number of sports themed clothes and toys for the toddlers and then slowly got into the groove of balancing sports and education. It was a struggle but we both reached a compromise.
There are plenty of parents who have the same struggle. I’m no expert but if I were to list a few things that helped us grapple with child sports, it would be these!
Being Realistic – Child sports comes with its share of aggression, bullying and injuries etc. If the negative if focused on too much, you will lose out on the opportunity to nurse other skills that come with playing sport – skills like compromise, understanding and playing as a team etc. Your job will be to talk through the positives to reinforce these lessons and to prepare yourselves and them for mistakes and setbacks.
Being Supportive – In your encouragement of your child, watch yourself for an signs of being pushy or sending your child the message of your expectations (they tend to build it up to be bigger than it is)
Highlighting Choice – Forcing your kid into sport is the worst thing you can do. There’s no need to rush them into it or make them feel like they have to learn it. While the ‘competitive edge’ argument is a powerful one, encourage exposure to different sports over pushing them to make a decision and stick with a sport.
Encouraging Effort – While talent is important, not everyone is a natural. Some skills come with practice and rather than focusing on talent, praise effort. Children need to know that you appreciate and are proud of any and every effort they make.
Throw out Comparisons – It’s so easy to compare your child to another. It happens so seemingly instinctively that you sometimes don’t even realize you are doing it. If you have to compare, compare against their own personal bests, their own milestones.
What are some of the tips you would give to first time sporting parents?