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The Value of Youth Sports

Updated on June 30, 2015

Learning Life Through Play

Are youth sports good for kids?

The crazy dad, the umpire from the bleachers, the coach that seems to place more weight on a ten year old's athletic contest than just about anything. Is all this an indictment on the failure of youth sports or a glimpse of the benefits they can bring if done correctly? In the 23 years that I have been involved as a coach of athletes from age 6 to 18 I have called out the ridiculous loons that I mentioned above. I have also been all of the above. What is it about youth sports that brings about such passion?

To answer this question I believe we need to understand why parents encourage their youngsters to participate in youth sports. From the moment a child is born, parents dream about the possibilities: doctor, business leader, sports star. Yet, if we ask parents what is most important to them with regard to their children, nearly all will say that they just want them to be happy successful people. Then if they are lucky, they find the ability to balance their child's aspirations with their own.

The passion that youth sports brings is an opportunity to teach children about the complex life experiences of success, failure, perseverence, humility, teamwork and conflict. This can be done through youth sports. If we are lucky, we catch ourselves each time we become the crazy dad, the bleacher umpire, or the coach going over the edge. If we are thoughtful, we ask one question before we ever begin the journey of youth sports as a parent or coach. Why am I involved in sports for young people? If the answer is to help create happy successful people then we have a chance to do just that.


Taking Direction from a Coach

Taking direction from a coach means accepting that "I am not perfect". For many kids, this is a realization that at first is difficult. In today's well meant world of self-esteem, sports is a good place to learn the concept of constructive criticism.
Taking direction from a coach means accepting that "I am not perfect". For many kids, this is a realization that at first is difficult. In today's well meant world of self-esteem, sports is a good place to learn the concept of constructive criticism.

Taking Good and Making it Better

Many kids come to school or sports with the notion that things are right or wrong. They feel that if they do "good" they will be told very little or maybe be praised. They feel that if corrected they should equate it with being scolded and feel embarassed. Since we want them to be successful adults that accept direction and set goals, this is an area we can address in sports. The progression that young people take in developing skills and relationships goes beyond good and bad. A terrific way to approach this with kids is start with small success. Remind them of that success. Take that success and reach for the next step, all with a dose of patience.

Parents are a Big Part of the Experience

A great source of pride is produced when athletes and adults are committed to sportsmanship and integrity.
A great source of pride is produced when athletes and adults are committed to sportsmanship and integrity.

Parents Are More Than Cheerleaders

Most coaches and parents that strike a healthy balance between the push of competition and the many needs of young athletes don't stumble upon it at first. In talking with those that have "been down the road" I hear many examples they have witnessed. About half of those examples are truly positive and inspirational. Another half are focused on the negative impact from doing it wrong. Those who have experienced the "heartache" of kids that lose their desire to play due to adults, are often committed to sportsmanship and confidence building. Those that have seen how discipline and work ethic bring success are often committed to hours of drills and training. The fortunate ones have witnessed both ends of the spectrum. These are the adults that eventually strike a balance. Most fortunate of all are the kids that they raise and coach.

Friendships With Other Teams

Intense competition can bring mutual respect and admiration. Adults that encourage this during wins AND losses teach more than skills!
Intense competition can bring mutual respect and admiration. Adults that encourage this during wins AND losses teach more than skills!

Celebrating Lessons Learned Together

Common goals and common experiences form a bond between young athletes. Battle first, shake hands, then celebrate the journey together.
Common goals and common experiences form a bond between young athletes. Battle first, shake hands, then celebrate the journey together.

Admiration and Respect During Competition

Life brings many emotions and dynamics between people. In our families we range between joy, support, frustration, anger, and appreciation, At work we support each other and sometimes compete with each other. Friendships bring satisfaction, but also harbor disappointment and jealousy. The uniqueness of youth competition in sports is a valuable opportunity to learn how to embrace this range of emotions. Blood, sweat, dirt, and tears......all an opening to the human experience. If we make the effort, we are all a little better with youth sports than without them.

Childhood Memories of Youth Sports

How do you rank your own experiences of youth sports?

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Incredible Story of Sportsmanship

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