By Jeff Wahl
March 19, 2007
Unfortunately, children don't come home from the hospital with an owner's manual. We simply do the best we can. As parents we can all pretty much agree that our intentions are similar. We want our children grow, mature, and learn life's valuable lessons without enduring too much harm in the process.
Youth sports can be a tremendous training ground for these life lessons, but more so if viewed from the correct perspective. The playing field is quite literally an outdoor classroom. Teamwork, sportsmanship, goal setting, and the ability to win graciously and lose with dignity are just a few of the invaluable lessons that a child can achieve by participating.
I have been a youth sports coach for eighteen seasons, and director in our youth league for the past four. I bring hands on and practical experience, and I offer this advice to parents and coaches. Note: 90% of youth coaches are parents with kids on the team. Parents must take a step back, preferably prior to beginning of their kids first season and, THINK FROM THE END.
If a child begins organized
youth sports at the age of five, and plays until they are thirteen,
(70% of kids will quit organized sports by the time they are
13) they will have a youth career spanning nine years. When
those nine years are over, what type of person are we hoping
will emerge? What life lessons and character traits will have
been learned? This nine-year period accounts for a major portion
of their lives, 10%! This time period is an exceptional, if not
irreplaceable time to teach and learn the lessons that form character,
and the principled based thinking. How do my parents react when
a call doesn't go our way? How does my coach act when confronted
with the opportunity to cheat? How do the adults I observe handle
the many challenges that arise during a youth sports season?
These young players are watching and learning not only how to
play the game, but they are learning how to act and react in
society. Our actions truly speak louder than our words.
About: Jeff Wahl is currently writing a book on Sports Parenting. I have been a youth sports coach for 19 seasons, and a youth sports director for the last four years.
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