Sports programs offer kids the chance to exercise and socialize.
When they play on a team, kids learn fairness, how to be a team player and the importance of doing their best. Unfortunately, some of the good lessons of sports are lost when parents and coaches place too much emphasis on winning.
The winning-is-everything attitude embraced by some parents and coaches today makes it tough to teach kids the rewards of being on a team, says Carleton Kendrick, a family therapist in Boston. Kendrick says it's time for parents to step up to the plate and teach kids that being active and having fun are what matter most.
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- Begin by setting the right tone. Make sure you don't give your kids the idea that you expect them to be future professional players or Olympians. Not only is it unrealistic, but it will strip all the fun out of the sport.
- Encourage your kids to do their best and to support their teammates, particularly when they aren't playing well. Teach them to treat opponents, officials and coaches with respect.
- Whether they strike out or hit a home run, offer support and praise their efforts. Emphasize that having a good time is far more important than winning every game.
- Look for a supportive coach who is a good role model, enjoys being with children, is generous with praise and encouragement, gives team members equal playing time and teaches kids to be good sports. If a coach is negative, yells at the kids or humiliates them, it's not going to be a healthy experience for your child.
- Find a sport your child enjoys and don't push him into team sports if it makes him unhappy. Some children do better with individual sports such as tennis or ice skating.