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Keeping perspective
August 1, 2011
by Jenni Sebora

In many communities, you can pass athletic fields and observe children participating in an entire array of sporting activities. Be it baseball, softball, soccer, football, and others, Little League sports certainly have provided a forum for children to be active, develop skills, learn teamwork, and good sportsmanship (hopefully), and have fun.

Yes, we want our children to have fun while developing their skills. This is possible. Sometimes, a few parents and even coaches forget this, pressuring children to be the super star or even demeaning their skills.

In an article on www.kaplan.edu by Margie Durham, “Who’s Misbehaving Now? Parental and Coach Conduct in Youth Sports,” it is noted that by the time children who are participating in some type of sport reach the age of 12, three-quarters of them drop out.

Studies reveal that many of the child sports participants drop out – not due to their skill levels, but rather because of pressure from adults. It could be that they feel that they cannot meet the expectations of their parents or other adults involved. Plus, having to play with criticism and exaggerated expectations does not provide an environment of healthy fun or skill development.

For parents looking to find their role in the athletic triangle (athlete, coach, parent), Smith and Smoll, (1999) listed these questions that parents should ask themselves in an article, “Sports and Your Child.”

The questions consist of: Can you show self-control? Can you share your son or daughter? Can you accept your child’s disappointments? Can you give your child some time? Can you let your child make his or her own decisions?

Parents should be able to answer “yes” to all of these questions. If not, parents should reevaluate how they are dealing and responding to their child’s participation in an activity.

Sometimes, the stories of a parent’s or coach’s misconduct hit the media or community so heavily that it may misrepresent the accuracy of such incidences. There are plenty of great children’s coaches and parents who want their child to participate for all of the right reasons. But, we all have probably been witness to some overbearing coach or parents whose expectations are skewed. This is so unfortunate.

It is important that coaches and parents keep their conduct, behavior, and expectations in check. We should be able to answer positively to the five questions listed above.

We have to also remember to listen to our children. We may want her to be involved in softball because we played softball, but it may not be an interest of hers. We need to allow our children to develop their interests and give them opportunities to do that. As part of this, we also need to know our role in this development. Being overbearing, condescending, overly critical, or pushy certainly does not set up a situation in which our children feel safe in their trials and development of their interests and skills.

There is a lot our children can learn and gain from their involvement in sports and other extracurricular activities, such as the fine arts. We need to support their attempts and healthy interests.