Wednesday, November 19, 2014

How Competitive is Youth Sports?

There are many parents who think that children’s sports are all just “fun and games.” These parents, however, are often in for a rude awakening when they sign their little ones up for a sport and see just how competitive youth sports can be. Some children as young as 8 have been recruited by scouts and engage in hectic training schedules on a regular basis.

And, even those who haven’t been “lucky” enough to be chosen by a recruiter or scout are often subjected to strict rules and guidelines by their parents and/or coaches. Some parents, for example, discourage or flat out disallow their children to play other sports. Others require strenuous hours of practice and training in private lessons with a coach.  

While many parents and coaches who encourage (or force) young athletes into playing at this type of level feel that they are doing the children a favor and helping them, they may actually be doing more harm than good. If you or someone in your child’s life is guilty of any of the following, it may be time to rethink all that you’re subjecting your little athlete to:

You’re Convinced Your Child is Going to be a Star
If you’re 100% convinced that your little athlete is going to be “the next big thing,” it’s time to get yourself in check! The harsh truth is that the vast majority of kids are not going to grow up to be superstar athletes, and those who do make many sacrifices along the way.

It’s okay to encourage your child to reach his or her goals, but the goals should truly belong to the child. If you are forcing your own hopes and dreams on your little one, then what you’re doing isn’t right. Even if your child did grow up to be a professional athlete, he or she would likely resent you for it!

Talk to your child about his or her goals, hopes, and dreams, and then make your decisions based on what your child wants, not on what you want.

You’re Scared to Let Your Child Try Anything Else
A lot of parents set their sights on their kid being successful in one particular sport. They may invest a lot of time and money into that sport, so, it’s understandable for them to be devastated when their kid has a change of heart and wants to do something else.

If that happens to you, the worst thing you can do is to disallow your child from trying another sport. Often, if kids are forced to focus all their energies on one particular sport, they get bored and burnt out, leading to bad attitudes and even worse playing. Secondly, kids can actually learn skills in other sports that can help them in their current one, and you don’t want to inhibit that type of growth.
Remember, childhood is about learning, exploring, and trying new things, so don’t be afraid to let your little athlete try something new. If the sport of your choice is truly right for your child, he or she will come back to it before too long!

You Teach Your Child to “Play Past the Pain”
Last, but certainly not least, there’s something seriously wrong if you teach your child to keep playing and pushing even when in pain. That’s not to say that every scrape or bump means a day off from playing or practicing, but, when a child is complaining of pain or injury, the worst thing you can do is to force him or her to play.

The child could have a serious injury that you don’t know about and should be checked out by a doctor before playing or practicing resumes. And, even if it turns out that the pain is manufactured, your little one is still trying to tell you something. Usually, that something is that you are pushing too hard and need to take a step back and let your child call the sports-related shots.

When Your Child Wants to Compete
If, after taking a close look at yourself and your own motivations and after talking to your child, you’re still convinced that he or she actually wants to play the sport at a highly competitive level, then you’re in luck! Your dreams of having a star athlete might just come true. Be careful as you make decisions that could affect your child and his or her future. When dealing with a serious-minded athlete, keep the following tips in mind:

·         Only allow your child to play on well-researched teams or clubs that have a reputation for being fair and legitimate and that don’t demand huge amounts of money or make insane promises about future fame and fortune.

·         Don’t overwork your child! If your child is tired, complains, or is getting injured more often, you’re putting too much strain on him or her.

·         Make sure your coach puts your child’s best interests first and treats him or her with respect.
·         See a doctor for checkups regularly to ensure your athlete can handle all the strain of a serious focus on sports.

·         Remember that, at the end of the day, sports should still be about having fun!

If you can keep all of these tips in mind, you’re guaranteed to have a happy, well-rounded young athlete in your life.

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