Zionsville Times Sentinel

April 17, 2013

Parents can help make sports fun

By Tess Worrell
For the Times Sentinel

— Cheers ringing across the park signal spring sports have begun. As children play their favorite sports, parents can do a few things to help make the season shine.

Remember — it’s our child’s sport, not ours. Overly aggressive parents make sports miserable — for their child and all the others. Generally, parents become aggressive because they forget the game is not theirs. Yelling at the refs, the coaches and the players flows from an insecure parent whose self-worth is somehow based on whether their child excels on the field.

Cheering, encouraging, even chastising, have their place. But we help most when the focus remains on the child and the team, not on whether our child’s performance makes us look good.

Make the most of learning opportunities. Sports offer a one-stop learning environment where children explore building their muscles and coordination, responding to instruction, working effectively as part of a team, and developing skills of encouraging others — just to name a few benefits. But learning these doesn’t happen by magic. Coaches and parents working together teach these.

Parents hugely aid coaches by reinforcing instructions at home. If the coach recommends certain drills, help children make these part of a routine. Not only will it help children improve in their sports, it instills a respect for instruction. It builds a teachable spirit in children, which encourages them to take advantage of the wisdom others offer and use it to improve.

When a child complains about another teammate, take the time to analyze with the child how he can improve the situation rather than just criticizing. Does that player need more encouragement? Is it a bully that needs to be confronted? Would some practice with your child make a difference?

While parents may dream of their child becoming a superstar, learning to work with others may be the most significant lesson a child gleans from his time on the field. When you help him see how he can take steps to address a situation on the team, he learns the skills of leadership that will benefit him whether he becomes a superstar or not.

See Wednesday's Times Sentinel for the full story.