It is well-known that instilling an active, healthy lifestyle with today’s youth can have lasting health benefits, both physically and psychologically. This includes, but is not limited to: healthy body weight, strong bones, improved metabolism, improved self-confidence, learning teamwork and leadership. One topic that is not often discussed is how to keep today’s kids involved in youth sports, including youth soccer. From personal experience, I remember being active in junior-high and high school sports such as volleyball and basketball. Unfortunately, I dropped out by my sophomore year. As I recall the reasons why I dropped out of sports, one experience comes to mind:
At the end of the season, my high school basketball team had an end-of-season meeting. As the basketball coach went around the room, summarizing each of the player’s season, all he had to say to me was, “Jen, overall your season was a disappointment to everyone.” Embarrassed, crushed and hurt, I was rendered speechless. I walked out of the meeting vowing never to play a high school sport again. Fortunately, I did not let this experience keep me inactive; about eight years later I found myself with a Master’s Degree in Exercise Physiology and competing in triathlon, frequently placing in the top 10 in my division. I would like to believe my experience was unique, but I often see critical coaches and parents playing a role in attrition in youth sports.
Below are a few suggestions to how to instill long-term participation in youth sports:
1. Be supportive. If you have a criticism, be sure it is constructive. Example: “You didn’t score any goals today, but I really liked how you played defense. You looked fast on the field!”
2. Communicate. Engage in dialogue where your child is able to express her opinions and thoughts of playing a sport in a open, honest, safe environment.
3. Listen. Related to the above suggestion, listening (maintaining eye contact and not texting or surfing the web) is a very powerful tool.
4. Develop a relationship with the coach. If there is an issue, be it physical or behavioral, talk with the coach on how to find a solution.
5. Most importantly: keep it fun! If its not fun, then why the heck are we playing? Life is short, make sure you and your child are having fun.
By: Jen Lesea-Ames
CEO, Fitwise Training, Inc. DBA Youth Soccer Training