Vail Valley Voices: Youth sports, just a game
Vail, CO, Colorado
In the course of a year, WECMRD hosts thousands of children in a variety of youth sports from football to hockey and basketball to baseball.
We’ve worked hard to increase the access to healthy recreational opportunities for kids ” ensuring quality play areas, providing the latest in safety equipment, maintaining affordable fees and establishing scholarship opportunities for those in need.
In the United States, an estimated 30 million children play sports each year, helping children lead healthier lives and learn character-building values such as teamwork, dedication and discipline.
One area that we continue to focus on, though, doesn’t deal with the kids. It’s the parents.
Now, we all know that parents enroll their children in sports or recreation programs with the best intentions. But once practice ends and the game begins, we sometimes see a big change and, often, not for the best. Many of you may have seen the following parent/child interaction problems:
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– Overemphasizing winning above participation.
– Holding a child to an unrealistic expectation of performance or skill.
– Criticizing a child.
– Criticizing the coach.
– Favoring a child to the detriment of others.
At WECMRD, our goal is to make sports fun. This can be troublesome to some parents who believe the team record is the measure of a program’s success.
But studies by national youth research organizations have found that the way to keep children interested in sports (and that is one of our key goals) is to structure youth programs that focus on fun and the kids.
A recent study of 8,000 kids found that kids participate in sports when 1) it’s fun, 2) it’s something they are good at, 3) it helps them stay in shape, 4) they get to learn new skills or a new game, and 5) they get to be part of a team. Not one mention of “winning the title” by the kids, but how often do we as parents determine that a coach is “good” because the team won all its games? In fact, kids cite the No. 1 reason they drop out of sports is because “it just wasn’t any fun.”
Let’s recognize that youth sports exist for the kids first and parents second. Not all the children who play youth sports will become professional athletes. Only a small percentage will even become college athletes. Did you know that:
– There are nearly 7 million high school athletes, but only 126,000 college athletes who receive full or partial financial assistance to play sports?
– Financial-aid experts estimate there are 30 times more education-based scholarship dollars than athletic-based scholarship dollars?
As parents, we have the chance to give our children opportunities to learn, grow and prepare for life. Participation in sports is a wonderful means to help your child.
Unfortunately, more than 70 percent of children drop out of sports by age 13. But kids who participate tend to have healthier lives, build better interpersonal skills and even do better in school. Kids who don’t participate have a greater chance of obesity, a problem that now affects 13 percent of kids ages 6 to 11.
Given the proven benefits of youth sports, let’s do all we can to make the experience positive. Some easy steps to help your child enjoy sports:
– Show your child how to learn to deal with winning and losing in sports. It’s a great lesson for life.
– Emphasize values such as teamwork and discipline. Winning will come and go, but values last a lifetime.
– See sports as just one of many enriching activities, not the only one.
I encourage you to contact WECMRD, Avon Recreation, or the Vail Recreation District to learn more about the youth sports and activities available in our communities.
Make youth sports fun for your child by emphasizing skill development, staying positive, not criticizing your child’s performance and being aware that if sports become work, they’re no longer fun.
Keep an eye on the big picture, not the scoreboard. After all, it’s just a game.
Mike Glass is the chairman of the Western Eagle County Metropolitan Recreation District Board.