I have fond memories of my childhood pickup baseball games at the local park, just a bunch of kids with a bat, a ball and a few gloves. We organized everything ourselves and spent the afternoon running around the bases in the sunshine. Many of us also played an organized sport, but it was usually only one and the time commitment was no more than a couple of days a week.
As for parents and organized sports, when I was a bit older I played an entire soccer season and don’t recall seeing my parents on the sidelines even once. It sounds sad, but I never really gave it much thought. In those days it wasn’t out of the ordinary to have just a few parents watching our game. And in my parents’ defense, they were always there for my winter activities.
Simply put, my parents took the summer off! If I wanted to play in the summer I needed to find my own rides. I really wanted to play, so I rode my bike long distances, took the bus and coordinated my own rides. My son is now the same age as I was when I was making my own way to summer sports, but he would have no idea how to even take the bus. Good or bad, this has not been a part of his life.
Reflecting on my own kids’ sports, I think that parents’ attitudes and behaviour in the stands has changed. Winning has now become the most important thing for many parents. They want their kids to win at all costs and be the best on the team. The fact that kids can learn so much by participating in team sports is unfortunately often lost. There are many important life lessons to be learned, including: teamwork, social skills, making friends, leadership and sportsmanship.
Unfortunately I hear parents screaming at their kids from the sidelines, screaming at other kids, the referees, the coaches and even getting into fights. When did kids’ sports loose some of the fun and become so intense? What powerful messages are these parents sending to the kids?
So as the summer season gets under way, I challenge parents to:
• Think about the whole experience for their child
• Teach them that teamwork is bigger than any one person
• Encourage their kids to work hard and practice to increase their confidence and skill level
• Teach their kids that loosing a game is not failure and teach them to loose with dignity
• Be a positive role model; encourage all kids and praise good plays
• Stop themselves and do not have “the talk” on the ride home (you know exactly what talk I mean and I catch myself doing this too – the backseat coach telling them what they should have done!)
At the end of the day, we want our kids to gain life-long skills, enjoy the sport and hopefully continue to play when they are older. When my parents were around in the winter, I don’t remember being criticized for missing a play or making a mistake. It was just part of the game. I still play a summer and a winter team sport, because I love being part of a team, getting a bit of exercise and I really enjoy being with friends. I’ve won some and lost a lot, but the memories I hold dear have nothing to do with the score.
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