Friday, December 25, 2009

Season's Greetings

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all readers and everyone out there. May you all have a great time and keep squashing.

Cheers and take care.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Children and Sports

Children (7-18 years old) play sports for a reason and that reason is and should be their own. My own research into the matter has unearthed the major reasons why kids drop out of sports halfway through. Generally there are 3 main reasons why they drop out: tertiary education, bad or improper coaching and parents. The last 2 leads to lost of interest in the sport or any sports. So this topic will be helpful to parents in understanding their roles they play in their child's sporting development. Children are still growing until they reach around the age of 20 +/-. They cannot be treated as adults. I attach 2 great reading pieces and hopefully it will help all parents out there. Pass the message to as many parents as possible and make sport enjoyable for all children.

Guidelines for Supportive Parents

David A. Feigley, Ph.D.
Youth Sports Research Council
Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey

Few youth sports programs are successful without the support of parents. Below are a few guidelines which coaches can share with concerned parents who are striving to support their young athletes.

Supportive parents emphasize improved performance rather than competitive ranking.
The distinction between performance and outcome centers on what can be controlled. Mastering sport skills (a performance goal) can be totally controlled by the athlete, whereas, the number of wins and losses (an outcome measure) is frequently outside the athlete's control. An overemphasis on competitive rank and an underemphasis on sport mastery is a primary cause of the dramatic dropout rate by 12 to 18-year-olds.

Supportive parents decrease the pressure to win.
Competitive sports create the pressure to win. Additional pressure from the parent(s) is likely to be counterproductive, particularly in the long run. Supportive parents avoid making the outcome of the game bigger than life. As the game becomes blown out of proportion, a youngster's self?esteem can become tied to winning or losing. A child should not feel less valuable or less loved when they lose.

Supportive parents believe that sport's primary value is the opportunity for self-development.
The probability of achieving lasting fame and glory via sport is low. Approximately one out of a thousand high school athletes become professionals. Although many young athletes never achieve professional status, their sports experiences enabled them to develop life?long values and self-respect.

Supportive parents understand the risks.
Competition places the athlete on center stage. Anytime you attempt to succeed publicly, where others can judge you, you risk failing. Over time, competing is a willingness to chance failure. Giving your best is what athletics is all about.

Supportive parents communicate their true concerns directly with the coach.
A positive working relationship is based upon clearly communicated, mutual goals among parents, coaches and athletes. While a parent cannot control the behavior of a coach, they can communicate with the coach on a regular basis about the child's overall development.

Supportive parents understand and respect the differences between parental roles and coaching roles.
Both parents and coaches need to understand their different roles. While parents are ultimately responsible for their child's development, once they have selected a coach, they must leave the coaching to that person. Although many parents often recreate with their chil, they must resist coaching "over the shoulder" of the coach and/or publicly questioning the coaches decisions.

Supportive parents control negative emotions and think positively.
Few athletes wish to perform poorly. Negative reactions to poor performance only adds to an athlete's pressures. Supportive parents realize that even the athlete who "chokes" is trying to succeed. In fact, part of the problem with many athletes is that they are trying too had to succeed. Criticizing such athletes does little to enhance their performance.

Supportive parents avoid using fear.
Punishment and withdrawal of love can pressure kids to perform better. Unfortunately, such strategies tend to trade short-term performance gains for long?term emotional risks to the youngster's health and well?being. Supportive parents recognize that a love for sport is rarely fostered by fear of the consequences of failure.

Supportive parents avoid criticizing.
Nagging parents often confuse support with constantly reminding the children that they need to practice more, condition more, concentrate more, etc. Overly involved parents frequently lose their objectivity. They are unable to provide critical emotional support which children often need before and during highly competitive contests.

Supportive parents recognize and understand expressions of insecurity.
Youngsters who express high anxiety, more often than not, have parents who are insensitive to their symptoms. When children are nervous, uncertain, or feeling pressure, insensitive parents may trivialize the child's fears or see such concerns as signs of weakness. Supportive parents realize that such expressions are normal and are a call for emotional support.

Supportive parents avoid the use of guilt.
Statements such as, "We've done so much for you," or "The family has sacrificed so much, the least you could do . . . " are typical remarks of unsupportive parents. They often use guilt to manipulate the child to behave the way the parent(s) desire.

Supportive parents show empathy for their child.
Empathy is an understanding of what the child is feeling and an awareness of the pressures and demands that the sport places on the athlete. Empathy is not sympathy or agreement necessarily, but, rather, a true understanding that the task is difficult. A sympathetic response to an expression of doubt by a young athlete might be, "Perhaps, you're right; it's too difficult. Maybe you shouldn't compete today." Conversely, empathy by a supportive parent might be expressed as "Yes, it will probably be a tough match today. C'mon, let me help you get ready.

Parental Guidelines for Young Athletes
By Shaun Smith

Sports are great. They can teach your young children many of life’s toughest lessons; the joys of winning, the down of losing, not getting that job (getting cut from the team), the value of hard work and creating friendships. Although the benefits of sports cannot be argued the benefit of sports is often determined by the athlete’s parents. Parents are usually the most influential figures in a young athlete’s life. Many of our young athletes have been soured though by their parent’s reaction to sports. Young athletes look up to their parents and often will gauge their performances based on their parents’ reaction to how they played. But parents, how you affect your young athlete goes deeper then how you support your young athletes after a performance. Here is a brief document comprising a few pieces of advice that will help you to optimize your child’s experiences of sport. Start living these brief points and you will be ensuring that your young athlete will experience the positive results of playing sports. Here they are:

• Try to make your child’s experience of sport as fun and exciting as possible. Youth sports should be fun even after a loss. Often parents become consumed with the performance outcome of the competition that they forget that at a young age sport should be about enjoyment. Make it fun again for your young athlete and he will love coming to the sporting arena of choice every day.

• Don’t judge your athlete’s performance on the level of their performance. A successful game should be viewed as one where the young athlete has enjoyed their sport irrespective of their actual level of performance. At a young age, athletes are learning new skills. Just because Jimmy failed to pitch a no hitter or get a shutout does not mean that he will never make it as a professional athlete. He’s young, he’s learning, let him flourish and you will be thankful later.

• It is important to find out your child’s reasons for their participation and motivation in sport, rather than get stuck on your own. It is easy for parents to push their child for their own motivations, instead of letting them play for their own reasons. Regularly ask your children why they play their sport. You may be surprised to learn that they are playing because the equipment reminds them of being a robot or because they like to be with their friends. There is no reason for why your child plays sports unless the answer is because you want me to!

• A healthy and well-balanced lifestyle will impact positively on your young athlete’s performance. It is important to enforce a healthy diet, get the right amount of sleep, and develop the right balance between sport and academic commitments. Kids are growing! They need to eat right and get enough sleep to ensure that they can continue to have the energy to grow and play their sports. Don’t prioritize their sport above academic commitments regularly or you will be teaching them that school is not important. They may begin to hate school and want to quit when times get tough. All of these ingredients will help in building a successful young performer.

• As a parent it is important that you show respect for your child’s coaching staff, making sure that you maintain good lines of communication with them. Too often parents will voice their concerns or problems that they have with what the coach has done with their children. Your young athlete will feed off of this and lose respect for the coach or misinterpret what you have said about your coach to be negative and become confused if he should listen to his coach. If you have a problem with any of your child’s coaching staff, it is always to best to speak directly with the staff instead of taking matters into your own hands. Follow the following rule and you will keep your young athlete’s respect for their coach and have a good year: Never talk negatively about your coach or imply that your young athletes’ coach has done something wrong.

• Try to get your child to focus on being the best they can be, rather than focusing on being better than their fellow athletes and friends. Comparisons are very dangerous, because in sport there will always be athletes better than your child, and athletes that are worse than your child. Your child may think that he should get special treatment if you have compared him to his peers and become discouraged when he is not treated as the superstar that your comparison has created him to be. As well many young athletes may become frustrated because they will never be the best athlete in their sport. The chances of your child being the next great superstar like Wayne Gretzky or Tiger Woods is less likely than your chances of winning the lottery. Finally, many young athletes may begin to spend all their time comparing instead of playing the sport. The sport is supposed to be fun and by comparing constantly it becomes a competition not a arena to learn some valuable life skills and burn off energy. Try to get them to focus on their personal goals and achievements while ignoring the performances of others.

To conclude, parents you can have a huge impact of how your young athlete’s experience of sports goes. How you act and react before, during and after a sporting performance will have a huge impact on your young athlete’s enjoyment of sports in general. Next time that your young athlete is nearing his/her next sporting performance remember that the purpose of youth sport is to create an opportunity for the youths of our nation to have fun and grow. All the triumphs and heartbreaks that are part of winning and losing in sports can provide learning experiences and lessons that help pave the road to a successful adulthood. Remember they will eventually be looking after you!