So let’s get down to business. Here are 3 steps that will help your child enjoy the youth sports experience.
Step 1. Let Your Child Make Important Decisions
While every parent wants to be involved with their child’s activities, it is important to remember that the primary experience here belongs to your son or daughter. You may suggest a sport or activity to do, but the choice of which sport to play should be your child’s. With that being said, that doesn’t mean that you don’t do your due diligence as a parent in protecting your child.
Once our daughter Jessica got into travel softball, when we would go to try out for a new team, I would meet the coach or coaches, I made sure I knew something about the coaches and/or team, and I would watch their practice to see how they operated. Many travel teams will just have your son or daughter join the team for practices or games for a tryout. Once I saw that the coach did not appear to be some sort of maniac, that he wasn’t screaming at the girls all the time, and that they had a decent idea of how to run a practice, the final decision on whether we joined that team if invited belonged to Jessica.
This decision may not seem like much, but it may be huge to your son or daughter. It also will go along way in their continuing to play. They must feel comfortable in their surroundings. This doesn’t mean they must have a perfect environment handed to them. But they must feel that they like the other kids on the team, that they feel like they want to play for the coach, and especially if you’re stepping up a level like going to travel or club ball that they feel like they are ready to take that step. In the six or seven years in travel ball, there was one team that Jessica didn’t want to play for. They had invited her to join the team. She had played with them on a few occasions (a couple years apart), but each time she just said she didn’t feel comfortable with that team. I would ask her if there was anything specific that led to her decision. She said there wasn’t any one thing, she just didn’t want to play for them. Perhaps there was something that she just didn’t want to tell us. That’s ok. It was her decision. Just like decisions we must all make as adults, we don’t always want to, or we are not always able to say exactly why we made that decision.
When Jessica started high school, she came home from her first day or two of school and announced that she was going to play volleyball. She had not asked us beforehand if it was ok. In our house, that was one of those things where we didn’t expect her to ask permission for every thing she was going to do. Actually I thought it was a very positive thing that she had the confidence to step out and try something else. She played for two years, along with her softball, and then her final two years she just focused on softball. That was her number one sport. She enjoyed having played volleyball but she wasn’t that serious about it and chose not to pursue it after her sophomore year.
Just to be clear, we didn’t give up our rights as parents to say “NO” if there was a certain reason to go that route. For example, I was not allowed to try out for football when I was starting high school back in the 60’s. Our family doctor highly recommended no football, not because of the concussion issues, but he said there were a lot of long term injuries that players experienced because the skeleton is not fully developed yet. So I ended up running cross country for a few years. When I look back now, I am glad that doctor did that. I have a few “arthritic” issues and I can only imagine how much worse they would be if I had played football. I played church and/or city league basketball and softball for years. But in the case of Jessica wanting to play volleyball we had no concerns. But by all means, if there is a serious health concern discuss that with your child. Don’t be overprotective. Some parents over-protect their children thinking they can prevent them from ever suffering pain, much less a serious injury.