Putting Sports In Perspective
Come Ready or Never Start™
Getting Started In Youth Sports–The Proper Perspective
The foundation of the Come Ready or Never Start philosophy as it pertains to youngsters initially becoming involved in organized sports is that the child must have a legitimate desire to participate. There is little benefit to organized sports if the participation is pushed upon the child by the parents.
Participation that is parent-driven instead of child-driven compromises the self-motivational drive that is at the foundation of the Come Ready or Never Start mentality. Kids should be participating because they want to—not because they feel they need to please their parents. There are responsibilities involved in participation:
- Going to practice
- Practicing at home
- Following the rules
- Working hard in practice
- Playing hard in the games
- Practicing good sportsmanship
- Respecting your teammate and coaches
The goal is for the child to internalize and adhere to these responsibilities through self-motivation, not because they fear the consequences from mommy or daddy if they do not.
Are you there to tell your children what their interests are…or should be? Or do you want your children to tell you? Offering guidance in choosing what activities a child may pursue is certainly a parental responsibility. But this guidance must be suggestive, not demanding.
That said, I am a firm believer in having the parents encouraging and suggesting their child to play organized sports if they feel there is a slight bit of interest displayed by the child. They can do so by creating a positive mindset for the child, emphasizing that it’s all about having fun:
· “Don’t you want to get out and play with your friends?”
· “How would you like to be part of a team and get a uniform?”
And if you’re suggesting, make sure you’re fully aware of why and take that into consideration in establishing goals and in guiding your child’s participation. Make a list and put on the refrigerator to see before each practice and game. At the beginner’s level, the primary reasons for participation should be:
- The chance to be active and enjoy physical activity
- The opportunity to be a part of a team
- Learning how to deal with adversity (You get knocked down, you get right back up.)
- The chance to set goals and strive for them
- Learning the value of working hard (while having fun) during practice and hustling and give 100% during the games.
If these are your motivations—and they should be—make sure you keep them in consideration in the interaction with your child—before and during the games.
Prior to the game
“You have a big game tomorrow that your team needs to win. Make sure you don’t let anybody down.”
That kind of ‘encouragement’ adds pressure…and where does ‘not letting people down’ appear in the goals I’ve listed above?
I much rather prefer, “Let’s go out and hustle tomorrow. Remember what our goals are—having fun, playing hard and trying to be just a little bit better than you were last week. If your team wins, that’s great. But that’s not as important as you doing the best you can.”
During the game
Where does screaming at your child during a game fit into the goals of participation I’ve listed previously. It doesn’t. I’ll tell you straight up—you’re embarrassing yourself, your child and your family. Screaming at a child will not improve his performance and probably hinder it. (Do you do your best work on the job when someone is always on your behind?) Remember, the goal is to make this a positive experience no matter how your child’s team is performing. Cheering and positive reinforcement at times helps achieve that goal, but I’m not a big fan of a lot of that during a game. Save it for afterward.
Parents need to play a proactive role in creating a positive environment. Many times you cannot control the aptitude of the coach. (And you’ll experience good ones and bad ones at the introductory level.) But the coach is interacting with your child maybe 2-3 times per week for a couple of hours. You are the influential one in their lives—there for them 24/7. It is your responsibility to do all you can to make sure this participation is fun for them, while instilling in them the value of being a part of a team and being a good team member.
Now, I know parents and how hard sometimes it is to put things in perspective. We all enjoy living through our children, no matter how questionable that motivation is. But parents need to remember that along with their children having responsibilities in participating in youth sports, the parents themselves must take on the responsibility of doing what they can to put that participation in the proper perspective—the objective being to allow the child to truly enjoy all aspects of the experience so they have fun while learning the values of competition.