There is no doubt that sports can have a positive impact upon kids. Belonging to a team gives kids an instant identity and group to belong with. They also learn skills like setting goals, dealing with adversity, and sportsmanship. Playing sports can also have a positive impact upon a child’s self-esteem.
David Burnett, author of “It’s Just A Game!” says sports gives children some control. When playing sports kids “learn the rules of the game — and the more they learn, the more they are in control — and they’re going to learn about sportsmanship and [how] to control their emotions.” The important thing is that children be given the opportunity to learn from their sport’s experiences.
Unfortunately some parents place too much importance on athletics. Burnett warns parents that if they place too much emphasis on performance that “the kid runs the risk of his or her self-esteem being tied to performance, which can be tragic.”
He gives examples where children who didn’t succeed in sports or who suffered injury and were unable to play were devastated. One girl commented that when she “went 0-for-4 in a softball game when she got home, nobody talked to her at supper.” Many parents are pushing their children to be successful and forgetting that their kid is just a child.
Parents need to not overreact when a mistake is made. Making a mistake is just part of the game, even pro athletes make mistakes. When parents make a big deal out of a mistake the child is more likely to beat him or herself up over it as well. I can still remember during one of my brother’s baseball games a parent who berated his son for every error he made during the game no matter how slight. At the same time the parent completely overlooked all the good things his son did. By the end of the game the boy was hanging is head and making more mistakes because he was so flustered.
Parents should focus more on the good things that their child does in a game. Burnett recommends that parents provide four positive comments for every one mistake that they point out. Also make your praise specific. Don’t just say “Good job!” point out a specific act that was great.
Sports are supposed to be fun and if a child feels like they are constantly failing they won’t want to continue playing. So remember your child is a kid first and an athlete second, and the child is the most important part.
See related blog:
Kid Fitness: A Guide for Physical Activity