Many parents sign their children up for youth sports without thinking that they might grow up to be the next Mickey Mantle or LeBron James. Instead, they do it because they want their children to be healthy and physically fit, not just athletic superstars. They do it because they want their kids to make friends and have fun and build character. In short, parents know what they want their kids to take away from youth sports—a positive growth experience—but they aren’t always sure how to make that a reality. Of course, while there’s no single approach to success in youth sports, here’s a list of strategies that can help.
Let Your Child Pick
One of the most common reasons why kids drop out of youth sports is because it isn’t fun for them, and one of the most common ways to ensure that your child has a bad time is to enroll them in an activity they never liked in the first place. When your child is old enough to participate in youth sports, present them with a list of options and let them choose the sport that they’ll play that season. In doing so, you help place your child in a sports program that they can get excited about, and you also teach your child to make a decision for themselves.
Be an Ally, Not an Enforcer
Youth sports doesn’t come without responsibilities, and players can learn important lessons by having to prepare themselves for practices or working on their basic skills every day. Although you may see it as your role as a parent to make sure that your sons or daughters follow up on these duties, this will only teach them to act if someone stays on top of them. Instead, remind your child of their youth sports responsibilities and the possible consequences and then allow experience to be their teacher. For example, remind your child to bring their proper cleats to practice, and if they don’t, that can serve as a lesson to them to be accountable for their own preparedness.
Encourage Other Passions
It may seem counterintuitive to suggest activities besides youth sports as a strategy for success in youth sports, but it’s true. Exposing your child to other pursuits, like entering the science fair or playing a musical instrument, can help to reinforce the lessons about responsibility and teamwork that kids learn in youth sports, and these activities can teach them new habits or skills—like heightened focus, potentially—that they can bring back to the field.