Over 35 million children ages 5-18 take part in youth sports. Some children play because it gives them an opportunity to try something they enjoy. While others participate so they can be with friends.
Some children have to poke and prod their parents to play a sport; while others are registered by their parents then later told about it on the car ride to their first practice. No matter how they are signed up or the motivating factors to participate, when children play a sport, their parents take on their own set of obligations. Some parents are well aware of the responsibilities, but others are surprised to learn what is expected of them.
Just as athletes are expected to give time to participate in an activity, the parents have to be willing to commit themselves in many different ways. It may involve driving to and from practices or games. It may be assisting the coach, baking the highly sought after post-game treats, or organizing a team photo. But from the outset, many parents don’t realize how much time it takes for their child to participate in these activities.
Often, sports are viewed as a benefit for the parents. While their child is at practice or games the parent has a newfound freedom to complete personal or family tasks. But what parents learn quickly is that sports programs require them to spend more time with their kids than they did before. The time spent traveling to and from games and practices is consuming; not too mention the time attending games, matches, or meets. When it all adds up, there is a stark realization that the commitment to youth sports has become much more than what was expected.
Get Ready to Start Early
Kids are starting earlier and earlier. Sixty-seven percent of boys and 47 percent of girls are already on teams by age 6. You read that right! Essentially, if your young family isn’t on a team by kindergarten, their peers likely will be. Studies also show that children are extremely impressionable at this age. This is a golden opportunity to participate with your children at this young age, set a good example, and have some fun.
Your Child is Making a Commitment, and You Should Too
The commitment to youth sports will likely require the parents and other family members to make sacrifices. From leaving work early to catch a late afternoon game or abolishing Taco Tuesday family dinner nights to get to an evening practice, you and your family will have to make sacrifices.
When children invest in something, the parent often becomes part of it as well. This commitment is what helps your child succeed. Having constant support and engagement in their early years of sports provides encouragement and confidence to persevere later in life. For young athletes, one of the most important impressions made is how their parents spend their time in support of their interests. Rushing to a game or volunteering to operate the scoreboard takes effort, but it is worth it. These small acts create a lasting impression that communicates your support to children, not only in sports but in life.
Part of Your Commitment Should Be the Fun Factor
Sports and kids are often a great combination. It’s a great physical release. It teaches teamwork. It teaches overcoming adversity. It teaches how to lose. It teaches how to win. The list goes on and on. Kids should be jumping into sports and staying long-term, right?
Actually, that is wrong. Kids are quitting because they don’t have fun. Statistics from ESPN show that the biggest reason kids quit sports is because they are not having fun (36 percent girls, 39 percent boys).
Part of your commitment as a parent should be to ensure the child has fun. Parents can be really creative in this part of involvement too. This can be the extra ice-cream after a playoff win, playdates with teammates away from sports, listening to fun music and singing to and from the game or the sticky goo of cotton candy between games at a tournament.
Commit to Engage in Youth Sports. Don’t Commit to Live Vicariously in Them.
So far, we have learned that this could be an unknown for you. Your child likely can start early, which isn’t a bad thing. Your child is making a commitment, and you should too. But your commitment should make sports fun for your child. This next commitment tip is very crucial. Pay attention.
Do not live vicariously through your children in their sports. Kids enjoy sports more without pressure. Thirty-seven percent wish no parents would watch them play, according to USA Today. The big reason for that is that parents often project so much pressure on their kids to perform. Your child has enough pressures as it is and they almost always want to please their parents. But when parents start to yell at referees or coaches, or show major disappointment in a simple error, or worse of all — scream at their kids from the sidelines, it has a deadening effect.
How do you ensure that you are not doing this? The answer is shockingly simple. Share. Share their experiences with them. Sharing their experiences places the focus on them. The emphasis is on what the experience means to your children, the emotions they are feeling, the lessons they learn, and the benefits they gain from their sport. Share the joys that they have. Share the mishaps, blunders, and have empathy for them if they screw up. Be there for them, and share in their emotions. Sharing in this manner also removes the sideline parent from the dangerous “Quasi-coach” role. Remember, it’s all about them.
Benefits of Participation
Sports offer children and adolescents many opportunities for growth and development. It is an opportunity to develop skills, experience teamwork, set goals, and learn self-discipline. Laying the foundation to help them throughout life and thrive in their future workplace. Everything a child faces in sports, from victories and achievements to fatigue and injuries, relates to something they will face in the future. Experiencing adversity and learning how to handle it is difficult to teach, but sports are an incubator for this lesson.
So when your child is signed up for a sport, know full well of the commitment involved not only for them but for you. The commitment itself may be the most important concept to come out of participating. Commitments in youth sports affect many people in different ways, but, when broken, the kids are affected the most.
Sports provide a great opportunity for the child and a great opportunity for the parents. Do your part, make sacrifices, and take advantage of the opportunity to interact with them in ways that will enrich the parent-child relationship. Because when both parent and child are committed, sports is a great tool to teach your child about life.