02 March 2016

For the Love of the Game: How to Make Sure Youth Sports Stay Positive

You and your children probably love youth sports and thoroughly enjoy taking part in them. For parents they provide some extra time to bond with younger ones, while also help foster strength in the parent/ child relationship. We’ve compiled a list of things to ensure you do to keep things positive – take a look below.

1. Continue to teach important skills.

Most young children cannot pick up a skill after only one demonstration. Repeat yourself often. Talk about different situations in which the particular skill might come into play. Then, practice those skills time and time again until it almost becomes second nature to the child.

2. Focus on the positive parts of the game.

It is much easier to remember what went wrong rather than what went right in life. This is true for adults as well as children. Think about your job. What do you remember from last week? Is the first thought that pops into your head something negative or something positive? Employers, for example, tend to miss the vast majority of the good things going on in the office because they only see the bad. With sports, constantly work to see the good. Look for opportunities to praise children. For each criticism that you hand out, you need to say at least four positive things as well. This helps to build children up rather than making them feel like they will never be successful.

3. Be specific in your praise.

Children are more likely to remember a specific compliment rather than a generic statement. For instance, saying "Your batting form looked great out there today" is more likely to resonate with a child than simply saying "Great hitting!" However, coaches are more likely to be specific when it comes to corrections and not to compliments. This is one of the reasons that children remember more negatives than positives.

4. Make a big deal over a success.

Kids react to animation. Your tone of voice, your facial expressions and your gestures are all important. When something good happens, get animated! Rewarding your child or the team after special occasions can be a great way to showcase positivity. This can be done with away days to a pro match, custom baseball jerseys or maybe with a meal out with the whole team. 

5. Enjoy yourself.

I have coached for a long time, but there is one player that sticks out in my mind. He was not a particularly emotional player, but if he found himself getting worked up, he would repeat a particular phrase to himself. While I can't remember the exact language, it had to do with the fact that having fun is the ultimate goal of the game. When pressed further about his mantra, the player told me that to him, having fun was learning and growing as player. When coaching children, it is important to impart knowledge to them. This is part of the fun of the game.

6. Laugh often.

The player that I mentioned above had a hard game one time. He was pitching, and he gave up a lot of walks in the first inning, to the point that the other team scored five runs. When it was our turn to get up to bat, the entire team seemed down. The pitcher walked up to me and smiled, however. He kept things positive and made a small joke about what had happened on the field. It quickly lightened up the atmosphere and the rest of the team got their heads back into the game. As a coach, it is important to be able to laugh. The kids need it and the adults need it as well.

7. Don't make assumptions.

Kids may not be familiar with the language that you are using. As you give directions, keep it simple. Make sure your players understand what you are asking them to do. Also, teach skills in several different ways so that children are able to get a better picture of what you are saying to them.

Disclosure:  This is a contributed post.

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