4 Tips For Parents to Get Involved In Youth Sports
Softball, Little League, and other youth sports can be good for kids in many ways. They help to encourage physical activity, teach valuable skills such as persistence, and help kids to socialize and make friends. Unfortunately, however, there are negatives as well. Kids who play competitive sports are at high risk of developing sports injuries, and news outlets are filled with distressing stories of parents who get into shouting matches and sometimes physical brawls on the sidelines of kids' sporting events.
Your child takes his or her cues from you. If you approach youth sports in a positive way, then your child will likely follow your example and reap the benefits of participating with fewer of the detriments. If not, your child will either emulate your bad behavior or become so uncomfortable that he or she no longer wants to participate.
There are many positive ways that you can approach the youth sports in which your child participates. Here are just a few of them.
1. Know Your Role
When it's just you and your child in the backyard with a catchers mitt, you can be a coach, a fan, a player, and an umpire all at once. However, when it comes to a youth baseball or softball game, you can only be one of those things at any given time. If you are an umpire, then your job is to be fair and impartial. If you cannot call your own child out, you may want to volunteer to umpire only games in which he or she is not participating. If you are a fan, then remain in your seat where you belong. Keep your reactions positive, and accept the referee's decisions.
2. Speak Appropriately to the Umpire
If you are only a spectator, there is never any need for you to speak to the umpire. If you have a legitimate concern, you should only bring it up to the coach, never directly to the referees. However, if you are the coach, it is another matter. You are the buffer between the umpire and the other parents, and you have a responsibility to handle any grievances appropriately.
Depending on the setting, there may be a formal complaint process you need to go through to correct errors by officials. If no such process is required, you can usually discuss it with the officials calmly. Remember that both the players and the other parents tend to take their cues from you. You can defuse a potentially tense situation rather than escalating it by keeping your cool. Keep your voice low and try not to overreact. Avoid aggressive behavior, but do be assertive in immediately raising concerns about any unnecessary roughness toward your team that you observe on the field.
3. Re-Evaluate Your Priorities
What do you want your child to get out of playing youth sports? Do you want him or her to be a great athlete? Do you want him or her to learn the skills involved in playing? Do you want your child to have fun? The last one should really be your top priority. If your kid isn't having fun, then what's the point of even playing?
Learning the necessary skills is a worthy goal and a good priority to have, but it should happen gradually and never at the expense of the fun. Pushing your child too hard won't help him or her to become a great athlete. In fact, it might have the opposite effect and cause him or her to give up playing at the first opportunity. Your child's priority should be having fun in a way that is safe and respectful of others. Your priority should be facilitating this to the extent possible.
4. Listen to Your Child's Concerns
If your child raises concerns, such as injuries or pain from playing or about others' behavior, including your own, listen to the concerns and take them seriously. Don't force your child to keep playing if he or she is hurt. That could make the injury worse. Don't create a scene at the field and cause your child embarrassment.
Your child will remember the overall experience, whether positively or negatively, much longer than the outcome of any single game.