Archive for March, 2009

The Value of Organized Sports

Posted in For Parents on March 11, 2009 by comereadyorneverstart

Come Ready or Never Start

The Value of Organized Team Sports for Youth



I am a big believer that participating in organized athletics—especially team sports—can teach values and life lessons that youngsters can use in their teenage years and beyond.  Noticed I said “can.”  This cannot be an automatic assumption.  Coaches and parents are key influencers when it comes to sport living up to its potential for building character.  Too often, because of a lack of guidance and proper reinforcement from coaches and parents, sport ends up creating ‘characters’ instead of building character.  


I have listed a few below.



Sports can teach a child discipline in a palatable way while they participate in an activity they deeply enjoy.  They need discipline to learn the skills—the discipline to put in the time and preparation so they can maximize their performance.  They learn that if they have the discipline to what it takes to improve and excel—performance rewards can follow.  Often, they need discipline while participating in the sports themselves to maximize their chance of success.  They learn the lesson quickly—without that discipline they do experience the joy of victory.


Hard Work

Sports teach young people that you need to work hard to improve and reach your true athletic potential.   They learn that this mentality can make up for natural athletic talent when it comes to being an effective part of a team.  They learn that you can extend your potential by just making up your mind to outwork the other kids.  That’s part of the Come Ready or Never Start philosophy—Outwork the competition



Kids learn that it takes a certain sacrifice on their part to participate on a team and contribute to the squad’s performance.  They may have to give up things (i.e. time playing video games; hanging out with friends; watching TV) in order to participate in the types of activities that will directly affect their sports skills and enjoyment of the sport. 



When your child grows up there is an excellent chance that he or she will be participating in a shared, group working environment that will require teamwork to be a success.  Team sports is a great model in which to learn the basics in meshing your efforts into a team format as one piece of the puzzle that must fit with the other pieces in order to create a environment of success.  They learn how the importance of the team supersedes the recognition of individual accomplishments—that by working together as a part of a group with a common goal, things can be accomplished that otherwise would be out of the reach of individuals.


Dealing with Success and Failure

Kids can learn how to be proud of their successes without demeaning their opponents.  They learn that accomplishments can be cherished so that the focus is on the pride that goes along with team success without letting an attitude of superiority drive their feelings toward their opponents.

Youngsters can also learn how to deal with failure—not winning the competition or accomplishing particular athletic goals.  They can be taught that any failure is just a temporary setback from which lessons can be learned in order to improve and have a better chance of success the next time.


Setting and Striving for Goals

This is my favorite.  Successful people are the ones who set short term and long term goals and focus their efforts on accomplishing these goals.  Organized athletics lends itself to setting both individual and team goals and then striving for those goals.  It does not matter the skill level of the young athlete or the level of accomplishment of the team.  Goals can be set that mirror the improvement desired and then a plan of action can be mapped out to reach those goals.  Likewise in life, youngsters will more likely succeed if  they are setting goals in school and other areas of lives.  They can transfer their athletic goal achieving lessons from athletics to other, more important areas of their lives.


Value of Practice and Preparation.

Come Ready or Never Start—that pretty much says it all when it comes to defining the importance of practice and preparation in succeeding in sports…or in life.  Youngsters can learn the value of preparation and practice in order to allow them to reach their goals as an individual or team.  They can experience the success that comes with the proper preparation…or the failure that comes when not enough focus is placed on putting the time in to practice and get better.  It’s much the same scenario in their school careers.


Overcoming Adversity

This is another one of my favorites.  Life isn’t fair and much of it involves overcoming setbacks and other adversity.  Youngsters can learn how to overcome adversity and temporary failures through the many situations they face in athletics, both in their preparation and during the competitions.  They can learn the mentality they need to both overcome and learn from adversity they face as they strive for their goals.  The goal can be just winning the particular game…or attaining a particular athletic goal.  Learning to overcome adversity is a mental skill that will serve them well for the rest of their lives.









Dealing With the Head Coach

Posted in For Parents on March 11, 2009 by comereadyorneverstart

Come Ready Or Never Start

The Relationship with the Head Coach


 Obviously, one of the most crucial roles in organized youth sports is the head coach.  This is also probably one of the most sensitive subjects for a number of reasons.  These coaches are not professionals, but volunteers.  They have different levels of understanding of the sport.  They have different motivations for volunteering.  They have different skill sets in dealing with young people.  They have different temperaments.  All can make for a challenging relationship with their players and the parents.  The Come Ready or Never Start philosophy does address some basic elements of how both kids and their parents should interact with coaches.


In the beginning years and formative experience in organized sports (1st – 4th grades), it’s all about setting expectations and communicating ground rules before the season starts.   Parents must communicate with the coach to make sure they thoroughly understand the ground rules of the league and the overall league philosophy.  They then must communicate those to their children and constantly reinforce them during the season. 


In addition, parents need to sit down with their children to set expectations for their interactions with their coaches.  Some of those expectations are as follows:


  • Kids should behave during practices and games as if they are with mom or dad.
  • Kids should listen and show respect for the coach.
  • The kids need to be told that the Head Coach is boss.  Explain to them the dictator mentality that he or she will probably have.  They should not be constantly questioning the coach.  He or she is the head coach, so what they say, goes.  Make it a real simple, black and white concept for them.
  • Treat the coach like they would treat a teacher in school.   Like a teacher in school the coach is trying to create a learning environment that will help youngsters improve their skills.  Like the teacher, the coach is helping the child get better.


Invariably, some parents have ‘issues’ with the coaches.  I won’t go into the multitude of factors that may go into these ‘issues’ but I do have recommendations on how they should be discussed.  Meetings with a coach should be:

  • One on one
  • In private
  • With no kids around

Don’t embarrass your child by confronting a coach in public.  And don’t belittle a coach in front of a child.


Obviously, youth coaches are not perfect citizens.  There will be times when a coach’s behavior will be atrocious.  That’s when you have to explain to your child that:

  • Coaches are not perfect
  • Coaches can let their emotions get to them
  • If they are belittled by a coach, that’s wrong—but sometimes life can be difficult and you’ll be hurt by someone’s words
  • You should give the coach another chance

Of course, you also have the option to speak with the coach privately.


If your child doesn’t like the coach, you’ll have to explain to him or her that it’s just like in school—they won’t like every teacher but they still have to act right in the classroom and give it their best effort. 


As young athletes get older and enter the world of competitive scholastic sports, parents need to realize that the competitive situation will be much more serious and coaches will have higher expectations for their children.  Coaches will expect more intensity.  Coaches will give more feedback to the child—both positive and negative.  Kids will be critiqued more thoroughly and probably harsher than before.  (After all, playing scholastic sports is like an Honors Class.)  Kids will be pushed by the coach to do more.  Parents need to set these expectation for their youngsters. 


Children may be dealing with significant coaching criticism for the first time.  Parents need to tell the children that if the coach is getting on them, that means the coach feels he or she has ability.   That’s why they were picked.  Parents also need to caution their children to expect bigger mood swings from coaches based on team success or failure. 


The biggest issue that comes up in interscholastic athletics is playing time.  This is when conflict is most likely to arise between parent and coach.  The best strategy for both parents and their children to follow if they are not satisfied with their playing time, is to  go directly to the head coach and ask him what the youngster needs to improve to earn more playing time.   Then the child has to be motivated to work on this improvement.  When the improvement has been measureable, go back to the coach and hold him or her accountable to what they said before.  The coach told the child what to improve; the child has made that improvement; now the coach should at least give the child an opportunity to earn more playing time.   It is preferable that the youngster be the primary contact with the coach during this process, not the parents. 


Parents need to realize that they need to become less and less involved with the coach as their child gets older.  Involvement is certain preferable at the booster club level, but that involvement should not extend to issues of coaching strategy or playing time.  Coaches need autonomy and flexibility to run their programs as they see fit, as long is it falls within the school’s guidelines.




Dealing With Success and Failure

Posted in For Parents on March 11, 2009 by comereadyorneverstart

Come Ready or Never Start

Dealing with Success and Failure


One of the most valuable lessons that youngsters can learn through participation in organized team sports is how to deal with success and failure.  The Come Ready or Never Start philosophy promotes ways of dealing with both success and failure in athletics that makes these occasions more learning experiences than an evaluation or critique of a child’s skill or value to his or her team.


There are two components to success and failure—the team component and the individual component.  As kids start their sports participation in their younger years, parents need to be looking for small individual and team successes that don’t relate to the outcome of a competition–making sure they offer praise.  These may include:

  • Showing up on time for games and practice
  • Being positive
  • Being properly dressed
  • Playing and practicing hard
  • Doing what the coach tells them to
  • Improving
  • Playing together as a team
  • Hustling as a team


Parents need to sit down with their children and explain what success and failure is at this point in their sport participation.  Failure at this age is:

  • Lack of effort
  • Not behaving during practice
  • Not giving their best
  • Having a negative attitude.

Their team could win but it wouldn’t be considered a successful outcome if it involves teammates arguing, a lack of effort or poor sportsmanship.


Success at this age revolves around trying to get better, both as an individual and as a team.  Sometimes the scoreboard shows it.  Sometimes it does not.  Parents need to sit down with their child and show that each game can be a learning opportunity.  If they won, talk to your child about why they won.  If they lost, talk to your child about why they lost.  (As an aside, when I see a child crying after a lost, it’s a message to me that parents have not taken the time to explain to their children how to keep sports in perspective.  No team or individual failure at this age is important enough to cry about.)


As children get older and enter the world of interscholastic athletics, success and failure can be judged by many of the factors just mentioned along with some additional ones.  Sportsmanship needs to be emphasized.  There is a proper way to win and a proper way to lose.   They should be taught to do both with class and respect for their opponents.  They need to be told they can take positive things away from a loss if they played hard, played together and showed improvement.  (A team can lose 20 games in a row, but if the team is getting better that will change.)  And, of course, a primary emphasis is placed on never, never giving up.  Failure is quitting.  Success is never, never quitting.    Other ‘failures’ at this age include:

·        Kids pointing figures at each other

·        Kids blaming others for a loss

·        Kids criticizing other players

·        Kids criticizing their coaches

Parents need to deal with these ‘failures,’ emphasizing that winning and losing is a team thing and any criticism should be directed at the entire team instead of individual players. 


As young athletes progress to the high school level, the emphasis on winning and losing as defining success and failure increases dramatically.  The competition is more serious and competitive.  They are playing before crowds where their success or failure is magnified.  People are wrapped up in their successes or failures.  It is important to emphasize that the child can learn from both winning and losing (And you can actually learn more from losing than winning.)


If the team wins, talk to your child about the reasons why:

  • Did they have a good week of practice?  What did they do in practice that helped?
  • How did their focus help them?
  • What did they have to overcome?
  • How did teamwork help secure the victory?
  • What do they still need to work on to get better?


If the team loses, talk to your child about:

  • What didn’t work?  What worked?
  • What has to be changed going forward?
  • How was their preparation and practice?
  • What could the child have done better?

 Kids on teams experience success in different ways depending on their roles on the team.  Parents have to realize this and reinforce how their children can experience these successes.

  • Role:  Just glad to be on the team;  benchwarmer; doesn’t play unless game is out of reach

Successes for them:  cheering on the team and offering encouragement to starters; playing hard and helping team prepare during practice (practices are their ‘games’); helping to keep team attitude positive

  • Role:  Primary sub; part-time player

Successes for them:  getting in the game, doing the small things correctly while in the game; making small game contributions; contributing in practice to make the starters better

  • Role:  Starter

Successes for them:  helping team win, individual stats, contributing to team performance

 Parents at this level do need to be proactive in talking with their kids—especially if they  are starters—to reinforce that success or failure in sports is not life or death and should be put in the proper perspective.




Setting Expectations–A College Scholarship

Posted in For Parents on March 11, 2009 by comereadyorneverstart

Come Ready or Never Start

Setting Expectations…That College Scholarship


When most parents push their children to get involved in organized athletics they have the noblest of intentions, thinking that participation will be fun for the child and provide valuable life lessons.  But you know in the back of their mind many parents hold out a small sliver of hope that through sports, their child can help pay for college through some sort of athletic scholarship. 


Especially when the young athlete shows some aptitude in the sport and continues his or her participation past the early stages and into the more competitive travel team and interscholastic arenas, the ultimate expectation for the parent and the child may be a college athletic scholarship. 


It’s only natural, isn’t it?  Given the astronomical costs of higher education these days, a scholarship can financially help a family tremendously.  For some, it may mean the difference between attending college or not.  It may be a high expectation, but there is nothing wrong with it as long as the parent and the child both agree with that expectation. 


Just how possible are these expectations?  According to NCAA statistics:

  • The odds of a high school boys basketball player earning some sort of  scholarship to play in college are 1 in 35. 
  • The odds of a high school girls basketball player earning some sort of scholarship to play in college are 1 in 34.
  • The odds of a high school football player earning some sort of scholarship to play in college are in 17.


The first big challenge if your son or daughter is one of those natural athletes who may be scholarship material in the future is to motivate them to practice and get better.  It’s just like the child who doesn’t have to study and still gets A’s in school.  Maybe they don’t have to study now, but the parent has to emphasize that at some point they will have to study to compete with other kids from other areas who may be trying to get into the same elite colleges.  If the expectation of the parent and child is to earn an athletic scholarship, that child has to be convinced at the earliest possible age that they cannot rely on natural abilities—they have to work to get better.  There are just too many natural athletes out there.


An expectation of a college scholarship means the young athlete needs to be constantly challenged with the goals of maximizing their abilities and promoting their mentality to want to excel.  Parents need to set that expectation, “…you’re going to be challenged…”

You set higher expectations and have your child agree to them.  You do not demand, but be suggestive as they experience success with competitive sports,  “Johnny/Jennifer…Is this something you may want to continue in high school and maybe earn a scholarship to play in college?”


If the expectation is earning a college scholarship, the goal for the young athlete is to have them peak in 11th and 12th grades.  When getting started on that pathway, that means thinking 3 or 4 years down the road.  Skill development goals have to be long term and considered more important than short-term goals or disappointments.  And there will be disappointments along the way.  (Just ask Michael Jordan who was cut from his ninth grade team.)  But these temporary setbacks can be seen in the broader context giving the athlete and parent an indication of where improvement is imperative if their scholarship expectations are to be met. 


The best identification of whether the college scholarship expectation is a realistic one probably starts in 9th grade.  Parents and children must have the same expectations, driven by being more suggestive than demanding,  “Johnny/Jennifer…would you like to improve enough in the next few years to give yourself a chance at a scholarship?”


If so, the child has to realize:

·        He or she must put a lot more time into skill acquisition and mastery than the normal child

·        They must realize that the more they are challenged, the better they will become

·        They must be told to look at the big picture and not get too down or too up with small failures or successes along the way


Parents do need to make sure their youngsters have the opportunity to complete and play against teams and players from other areas.  It doesn’t mean much if they are one of the best in your area.  You will get a better evaluation and feedback about their college scholarship potential when you watch them playing against the best kids from other communities. 


But let’s me frank.  The odds show us that there are many expectations of athletic scholarships for young athletes that are not coming to fruition.  If the scholarship expectation is not met after their senior season, there are alternatives to the child’s desire to participate in college depending on the intensity of the interest by the child and parent.  These are some alternative pathways:

·        Prep School

·        Junior College

·        Going Division III

·        Walking-on

(I had my heart set on playing major Division I basketball so I turned down scholarship offers from minor D1 schools to walk on to the University of Pittsburgh.  And I worked my butt off to earn a scholarship.)


An expectation of a college scholarship is a challenging one.  Both the parent and child must be aware of the hard work and sacrifice needed to fulfill that dream and can work together to chart a pathway to give the young athlete the best chance of fulfilling that expectation.




Ignore the Noise–The Later Years

Posted in For Parents on March 11, 2009 by comereadyorneverstart

Come Ready or Never Start

Ignoring the Noise As Young Athletes Progress


In the Come Ready Or Never Start mentality system, noise is defined as any negative feedback  that discourages youngsters to strive to get better, reach their potential and achieve their athletic goals.  This feedback could come from family members, friends, coaches or complete strangers. 


“You’re not fast enough.”

“You just don’t have enough talent.”

“That’s just not your sport.”

“You’ll never make the team.”

“You’ll never play much.”

“You’ll never start.”


As young athletes get older (junior and senior high age) and get more serious about competitive sports, they should begin to start visualizing their goals and things they want to accomplish—learning to even write them down.  This includes careers they may aspire to.  Many times they’ll cut pictures out of goal ‘role models’ to remind them of their long-term goals. 


With these goals in mind, they are old enough now to identify the ‘noise’ or negative chatter that is out there providing negative reinforcement for them.  They should ignore this ‘noise’ in terms of affecting the way to pursue their goals—instead use the negativity as a motivation.  They should remember the ‘noise’ before they go to bed at night and when they get out of bed in the morning—letting it motivate them “to prove those people wrong.”   (Some of this noise may even come from their friends.  If kids are not confident, they’ll try to bring their friends down, too.)


Kids have to look past this ‘noise’ to focus on their goals.  They can hear and remember the ‘noise’ but let it motivate them.  They need to be told not to be confrontational towards the people providing this ‘noise.’  Absorb the ‘noise’, acknowledge it if they want, internalize it and then say to themselves, “We’ll see….”


‘Noise’ can affect confidence, especially when it comes from people that the child cares about—family, friends or coaches.  It can affect them in a good way when they internalize it and use it to get better.  It can affect them in a negative way when they question their abilities,  “…maybe that person is right…”  Youngsters that suffer a temporary crisis in confidence because of ‘noise’ can get that confidence back through more practice and preparation—putting the time in to get better.


‘Noise’ may not be something heard by young athletes, but instead be some sort of negative event.  Maybe they struck out with the bases loaded; committed a number of turnovers; allowed a soft goal; made an error.  They should react thinking this way:


“Maybe I wasn’t good enough in this situation, but I’m not giving up.  This is what I have to work on to get better so that I can succeed in that situation when it comes up again.  And I will be back!”


In these situations the young athlete should go back to working on the fundamentals and ask themselves whether they are putting in quality time to reach their potential or just going through the motions.


As kids progress to high school the potential impact of the ‘noise’ is greater.  There is stronger peer pressure.  There is more intensity with athletic situations (i.e. dropping a pass in front of 3,000 fans).  There is often more of a sense of urgency if the athletes and their parents are hoping for an college athletic scholarship.  That’s why it’s important for them to have a firm foundation of how to ignore and deal with the ‘noise’ in the development of their athletic careers, so they can be more successful in ignoring it at stage of their careers. 


I actually feel that young athletes that face the most ‘noise’ have a little bit of an edge because the ‘noise’ provides another motivation that pushes them even more than their counterparts who don’t face as much ‘noise.’  There is always a little more you can give than you think, as an athlete.  Overcoming the ‘noise’ can bring that out as the athlete shows people they can accomplish a goal that they were told they couldn’t.   


Good coaches reinforce the ignore the ‘noise’ mentality, but some coaches will intentionally cause the ‘noise’ to motivate kids and see how they respond.  This could be in the form of a constantly critiquing their performance in a negative way.  Kids may feel picked on by the coach or feel they are being singled out for criticism.  Again, their best response is to use that ‘noise’ as a motivational tool to get better.  Parents should provide positive reinforcement, noting that the coach wouldn’t be on the youngster if he didn’t think he could be an important part of the team. 


And how does the young athlete handle things when he or she has overcome the ‘noise’ to accomplish their goals?  They should not go back to those who caused the ‘noise’  and gloat or be vindictive.  They should be gracious—realizing that part of the motivation they used to be successful came from those people providing the ‘noise.’




Setting Goals–The Later Years

Posted in For Parents on March 11, 2009 by comereadyorneverstart

Come Ready or Never Start

The Importance of Goals For the Serious, Young




I’ve talked about getting your child acclimated early to the importance of setting goals as they first participate in organized sports.  The primary emphasis is on goals that reinforce proper socialization traits that sport can teach with less stress on goals tied to superior performance.


As children reach the 5th grade and beyond and begin entering the realm of interscholastic sports, the Come Ready or Never Start philosophy addresses the kind of goals that directly impact performance and your child’s accomplishment in that particular sport.  There is a weeding out process as many children move on to different interests, having met many of the goals they set for themselves during their initial, more passive involvement in sports.  Those that remain have goals more directly related to athletic performance–taking the Come Ready or Never Start mindset to the next level.


I’m asked all the time about the child who wants to quit participating in a sport because of a lack of interest—even though that child may have excellent talent and potential in that sport.  I say, it doesn’t matter.  Without passion or desire, someone’s talent or potential are pretty much meaningless.  I firmly believe that potential is more directly linked with passion, not innate talent.   Talent with no passion means nothing and the child will not derive the same values and lessons of competition if they lack the interest in the sport—even while they may be reaching higher levels of achievement.  I tell parents, find out which sport your child is most passionate about and point him or her that way.  It may not be their ‘best’ sport from a talent perspective, but it is their ‘best’ sport from an enthusiasm viewpoint, and that make up for a lot of talent.  The number one goal still applies:  It has to be fun.


As they advance into junior and senior high they must improve their skills and they do so by setting specific sports specific and athletic conditioning goals that should include speed, agility and core strength.  The setting of goals is no different based on talent level.  You have a starting point that is determined through a pre-test, and a goal point.  The goals should be a mixture of easily attainable goals and stretch goals that will take an extra-special effort or practice. 


And again, I want the child to be driving the level of these goals so we can make sure he or she is having fun in their pursuit.  But that doesn’t mean the parent can’t help guide these goals by proactively probing your child’s motivations by asking questions:  What do you want to do this year—play more, start or just make the team.”  If you feel the goals are not ambitious enough, don’t worry about it initially.  Let the child attain these easier goals and then suggest they go further:  “Boy, you really improved your dribbling; I bet if you kept improving you could be one of the best ball-handlers on the team.”


Starting in the 8th grade, goals should be set a year and a couple of years out.  These annual goals can involve playing time, starting, making the team etc.  Two or three year goals can involve looking ahead to varsity competition in high school.  Once these goals are set by your child, he or she then needs someone’s guidance in order to devise a plan to accomplish them.  Don’t put stress on short-term goals at this age.  That way if your child has a bad game or maybe doesn’t get into a game, it really doesn’t matter because the goals are a year or two away.  It minimizes the feeling of failure or anxiety when things don’t go right during one practice or game.  The child should be reminded that the goal is a ways down the road and that temporary setbacks are natural and expected. 


Goals in high school are all related to the overall senior season goals.  Does the child want to start; attempt to earn a scholarship; be named all-section or all-district; just get some playing time; or is the child content to just be a part of the team.  Then yearly, seasonal and off-season goals are set that support that overall goal in each of the sophomore and junior years.   The Come Ready or Never Start philosophy reminds the child and parent that reaching these short term and long term goals takes the proper attitude and discipline.   Without that willingness to practice and prepare, their goals will not be realistic. 









Setting Goals–Early Years

Posted in For Parents on March 11, 2009 by comereadyorneverstart

Come Ready or Never Start

The Importance of Goals For the Beginning, Young Athlete



I’m a firm believer in setting goals and actively tracking your progress in attaining them.  If you read about the people who seem to be more successful in life, the one constant is their practice of setting goals.


That’s why a vital part of the ‘Come Ready’ in Come Ready or Never Start involves the importance of setting goals from the earliest stages of organized sport participation.


Yes, 1st through 4th graders need to learn about the importance of goals and learning how to set them.  And the parents need to play an active role in guiding them along any number of pathways in their young lives that are guided by these goals.  Certainly, they should be used in the school setting.  They also should form a significant foundation for your child’s sport participation.  That’s the beauty of youth sports.  Most of the kids are enthusiastic participants, so you can use this enjoyable activity to teach the value of goal setting and the lessons that are learned in both success and failure in reaching those goals. 


What goals do you set? 


Well, much depends on the circumstances behind their participation.  Ideally, they have come to you wanting to play.  The reaction of most parents?  “Great, I’ll sign you up.”  And that’s the end of the conversation.  That is unfortunate.  Because it is really up to the parent to be proactive in exploring their motivations. Asking questions will then help you introduce them to the concept of goals and what role they play in their experience.  It will also guide you in the type of goals to encourage them to set. 

Why do they want to play? 

What do they know about the sport? 

What’s the level of their interest?   

You very well may set different goals depending on their level of interest.  If the child is participating in the sport to be with friends, goals may be very different from goals set if the child is preoccupied with the sport and wanting to perform at the highest possible level. 


That said, the first set of goals to be set has nothing to do with the motivation behind their participation.  These are goals that teach the child the socialization lessons that sports can promote:

  • Have a positive attitude after every game or practice.
  • Work hard and show some enthusiasm during practices and games.
  • Don’t complain, encourage.
  • Get along with your teammates, be a good teammate.
  • Respect and listen to your coach.
  • Be at all the practices.


And, of course, there are the two golden goals:

  • Have fun
  • Don’t quit.


When children begin their  participation in organized sports, you need to explain these goals to them.    Your child has to be made plainly aware that if he or she begins a sport, they will not be allowed to quit until the season is over.  This lays the groundwork at an early age when it should be laid for this very important lesson—some things in life may not be fun but you have to finish them anyway. 


Prior to every practice and game, don’t be afraid to go over these general goals so you set an expectation for your child.  After every practice and after every game, communicate with your child to reinforce these goals.

·        “Did you have fun?”

·        “Did you work hard?”

·        “What did the coach say?”

·        “What did you do well today?”

·        “Who else played well today?”

·        “What was the best part of practice?”


While the child’s answer to these questions is important, just as imperative is that the parent comes back with something positive.

  • The coach said we could play a lot better.”

Well, you’ll have days where you won’t play your best, but if you keep up your hard work in practice you’ll have more days that you will play your best.”

  • I didn’t get any hits today.”

“Don’t worry, that wasn’t one of your goals we talked about. We just wanted you to make contact and make sure you had some good swings at the ball.”

On of your goals as a parent is to remain positive—and I realize that can be tough.  At this stage of their participation, your child does not need negative reinforcement unless it pertains to not hustling, playing or practicing at 100% or displaying a poor attitude.


You can then move on to setting goals that are specific to your child’s athletic development—either sport specific or in general.  These development goals are determined largely by your child and his or her level of commitment and desire to improve.  You and your child can set goals in their skill attainment that will allow them to better enjoy their experience.  There’s certainly nothing wrong with that.  Or the goals can be more aggressive if your child has the desire to excel or reach his or her fullest potential.


But a final warning.  Please, oh please, let the child make the decisions.  Conflict arises when their goals and your goals are not the same.   My advice:  Defer to their goals and let them experience the sport on their own terms at this age.