At first, the experience of youth sports for you and your child starts out innocent and fun. Unfortunately, it usually doesn’t stay that way. As you are coasting along, enjoying the adventure, be prepared for these pitfalls that may trip you up and turn what should be a good season into a trying experience. Pitfall #1: “My Child is the Best” Even if your child is the strongest player on the team, the my-child-is-the-best mentality can very quickly distort into, “my child is the best, he should always be playing and he deserves an award” mindset. There’s nothing wrong with believing in your child and building up his confidence. Go ahead and tell him he’s the best, but just don’t expect everyone else to agree with you. Pitfall #2: Sports Should be Fun! In an effort to move away from an unsafe and unhealthy youth sports environment where kids are forced to play and burnout because they hate what they are doing, I fear we’ve gone too far in the other direction. Now for many teams, coaches, and leagues, it’s all about having fun, period. While there are some merits to this approach, it depends on how you define “fun.” If having fun means the coach never gets mad or never makes the team work hard, or every kid always plays and get trophies, then perhaps we need a new definition. The “fun” factor in youth sports should be emphasized when kids are beginning sports, but as they grow, this emphasis should shift. Fun in youth sports should not mean that no one sweats, no one gets tired, everyone is always happy and laughing, and that practice is easy. Fun and hard work can go hand in hand. Pitfall #3: “If My Child isn’t Doing Well, it’s the Coach’s Fault” Blaming others for your child’s struggles will not help him get better. When my husband coached freshman football, there was one mom who was always at practice. And because she saw everything that went on, she was my husband’s staunchest supporter. When parents got upset about their football players’ playing time, they blamed my husband and when she heard the accusations, she’d speak up. “Why don’t you come to practice and you’ll see for yourself why little Johnny isn’t playing. He goofs off, doesn’t work hard and doesn’t do what he’s asked to do.” Let’s be honest about this. There are many times when your child could be the one at fault. Perhaps he’s not listening well in practice or not doing his assigned job on the court or field. Don’t be so quick to blame the coach for something that your child is doing on his own. Pitfall #4: “I have to Fork out a lot of Money if I Want My Child to Succeed” This is probably the biggest pitfall when it comes to youth sports. How do I know? Because traveling teams, equipment sales, and sports camps all seem to be doing very well. There are many ways to save money in youth sports, so don’t be sucked into the mindset that you have to get a loan or a second mortgage to help your child improve his skills and experience success. There are choices. Find what is best for your family, and don’t let the pressure of keeping up force you to spend money where you really shouldn’t. These sports parenting pitfalls could keep your child from having a positive, growing, life-shaping experience in youth sports. Watch your step.
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