Thursday, June 7, 2007

America Kids Sports Month!

Besides being International Children Awareness Month, June is also Sports America Kids Month! The beginning of summer is the perfect time to think about how good sports are for kids. Is your child involved in a sport?
The most important thing to remember about kids and sports is that kids aren't in it to win! Sure, winning is exciting, but playing on a team that loses all the time is a lot more fun than sitting on the bench for a team that always wins!
If a child is involved in a sport that she enjoys, the benefits are enormous! Sports offer kids physical fitness, increased confidence and self-esteem, self-discipline, teamwork, sportsmanship, leadership, coordination, and a lot more!
But, did you know that just about 70% of kids who play sports eventually quit permanently at around the age of 13? Thats when sports typically start being more competitive. Instead of just playing for fun on the local park district team, kids are expected to try out for their school's teams... and only the best players make the team! It stops being fun when kids are pressured to be superstars. Being scolded by their parents or coaches for less-than-perfect performance takes all the joy out of playing. And, with all that pressure, children do not continue to gain the self-esteem, confidence, and other great qualities that they did when they were just playing for fun!
Here are some keys to keeping the fun in sports, no matter what age your children are.

1. With younger kids, around preschool age, don't bother trying to get them to learn all the rules of the sport. Concentrate on the physical skills, like kicking, throwing, running, etc. Kids who are just learning to count don't need to worry about how to keep score! As kids get older, they can begin to learn the actual rules of the game.

2. Don't pressure kids to perfect their skills at sports. It can be fun for kids to learn and try a new move, like a corner kick or a tricky pitch... but they don't need to do it perfectly.

3. Outside of organized sports, encourage kids to play impromptu sports games with their friends afterschool or on the weekends.

4. If a child gets injured while playing a sport, don't pressure them to keep on playing while they're still in pain. They're just kids, not professional athletes!

5. Praise your kids for their good effort. You don't have to go overboard and tell your kid he's the best player on the team! But little praises like, "Nice swing," or "way to hustle," can go a long way!

6. Kids have to sit and pay attention all day at school. Don't get angry with them for daydreaming in the outfield!

7. After a game, ask kids questions like, "What was the best part of the game?" and "Did you have fun?"

8. Encourage kids to try out a variety of sports, and let them decide which ones they like. Little Tommy's dad or big brother might have been the best players on their baseball teams, but if Tommy is interested in football, hockey, or gymnastics, then let him do those things instead!

Some people argue that this type of laizze-faire attitude towards sports will not help kids prepare for the "real world". But most of our kids aren't going to grow up to be professional athletes. And if they do decide, somewhere down the road, that they want to make a sport into their career, its going to be because of their genuine love for the game... not because of all those extra practices their parents forced them into or all the pressure their coach put on them to be the best team ln the Little League!

So lets all be good sports, and let the kids have fun!

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