Starting Young Athletes The Right Way
When Jerry was a child, he was introduced to sports by his friends, and the neighborhood kids. In those days, the rules were loose or non-existent. There were no referees, and a 9-year-old could find himself, or herself, pitted against a 14-year-old. Jerry learned the basics through play.
If he made a mistake that was okay. He might have gotten a little grief from his teammates over a botched play, but it was, for the most part, an informal thing at best. It was (and still is) the best way for a child to start learning a sport. Totally autonomous.
The only time an adult got involved was when mom yelled out the back door that it was time for dinner. Or that time Jerry clipped a baseball through old Mr. Ferguson’s front window. Other than that, no adults. Unless you call stopping a play because the car is coming adult interference.
Jump forward 30 years. Seeing a child playing outside is now almost as difficult as spotting the nest of a ring-tailed, flute-billed booby (even harder, because they never existed). Children’s sports, by and large, have become highly competitive, and structurally rigid. Some coaches have lost sight of the fact that children’s sports are supposed to relaxed and informative, and well, let’s face it, just fun.
Over reactions on a t-ball field, or any field, whether it be from the coaches or the parents, can absolutely turn a child away from sports. Imagine the trauma a child feels when he sees two grown adult males come to blows over a referee’s ruling that is perceived to be incorrect.
Thankfully, Jerry grew up and became a smart dad. He knew, from experience, that the best coaches are less concerned about trophies and winning. Those are the same coaches who don’t worry about teaching game tactics and strategies, because, at this particular stage of coaching little ones, those are completely unimportant to the children. The kids aren’t showing up to the field to practice. They are there to PLAY!
A coach who can involve the kids in the sport, and let them take ownership of the game, are the ones who will provide their players with the deepest love for the game.
However, even more essential to the child developing a love for sports and athleticism are the parents. What Jerry revealed was that first and foremost, find out what sport your little one is interested in. Remember, they may not enjoy the first sport they try, so mom’s and dad’s need to be flexible.
The most in important thing an adult can do for their children is simply support them. Tell them you love watching them play. Don’t sit them down and go over their mistakes. Nothing will stop a person in their tracks faster than a boatload of criticism, regardless of the fact that is meant to constructive.
So, do what Jerry did for his kids. Find out, first and foremost, what they’re into. Secondly, find a good coach, someone who’s more concerned with the child’s development, rather than a trophy. Third, be patient. Maybe little Billy found out after 3 practices that soccer’s not his sport. Yeah, $100 or more on equipment that may or may not ever be used again. Think of it as an investment in their future. Jerry did. Now his son is a key player for a highly rated professional baseball team. From small steps comes greatness.
Better People. Better Players.