Your Family and Youth Sports: Maximize the Learning – Minimize the Stress
I’m a coach for my son’s 5th grade football team. I’ve learned the basics of coaching, how to break things down to teach skills that will help the team succeed. I love the game, the kids, the coaches. It’s been a tremendous joy to be part of the team as I try to encourage and bless others – coaches, players, and parents.
But, sports can take over a family, essentially becoming the “god” of our life, as our desire to have our kids succeed surpasses everything else in importance. The first question in one of our recent parenting seminars was, “What do I do about the craziness of our sports schedule?” “I feel so guilty about missing church a lot.” Sports can bring out the best and the worst in our families. It can teach important skills and values, or run us ragged and distract us from what’s really important. So take a couple of minutes to be thoughtful about your involvement in your children’s sports.
Maximize Your Child’s Learning:
Sports abound with learning opportunities. It tends to brings together kids of various ethnicities and demographics – and they must get along and work together. Well coached teams require the kids to focus, be disciplined, work together, put out effort, and be responsible/accountable – skills that will serve your child well in life.
The best coaches are demanding, emphasize teaching, manage to make it fun, care as much about the development of the kids as about winning the game, and reinforce the values you teach at home. If you find a good coach, try to stick with them, of course. (If your coach struggles, that is a great opportunity to model for your child how to encourage and honor someone in authority. It could be the best thing your child learns this season. )
Be alert for ways to maximize your child’s growth in character and skills. Research shows that the best way to motivate people is to help them see their own progress, even if it is in small increments; affirmation from others is a close second in its helpfulness. Notice, point out, and encourage the character quality or skill development that you see emerging. Share a verse that you see your child emulating – i.e. re: serving the team, diligence, encouraging others, etc.
I have often pointed out to my daughter what a great passer she is and how her unselfish play helps her soccer team be successful – even when she feels that her teammates don’t pass back. This is a great character quality I want to reinforce. Keep your eyes open for opportunities like this.
Minimize the Stress of Sports:
If you have children in lots of activities, you can relate to the car coordination, calendar studying, gas guzzling, “see you at bedtime” insanity that overlapping sports can cause. It takes away family meal times and “hanging out” time in the evening. I often see my 4 year old, who is still at home, during the day. But I feel like my middle child, who is in school, is the one who gets a bit lost in the busy schedule. I sense some subtle resentment. There’s also more stress and pressure on our marriage. During these busiest of times, we have to be more intentional to find time to connect.
Keep Your Family Connected in the Craziness:
1. Find special times to connect with the kids that you feel might “get lost in the shuffle.” (I try to go for walks with my daughter, connect with her in conversation more, and laugh together about funny things.) If you’re not coaching, drop your athlete off at their game occasionally and go have a special date with another child. This gives your athlete a chance to tell you all about the game later, and communicates “My world does not revolve around your games,” a healthy message for kids.
2. Turn the TV off earlier to foster “wind down time” and allow extra time to connect.
3. Take a few minutes with your spouse to connect at the beginning or end of the day.
4. Build a family night into your week. One family has waffles, sausage, a little faith-building activity and games every Sunday night and the kids love it. The routine gives a sense of stability and order.
5. Be honest about your schedule. Read Jim and Lynne’s book (pages 12 and 13) about “When Too Much is Too Much.”
So, stay connected during the busy sports seasons! Your family needs it!!!