Joining a team, especially for the first time, can be stressful for a kid. There will be so many new things to deal with. There might not be any kids on the team your child knows. Then there are the coaches to get to know. Finally, there is the reality that there are kids out there better at the sport than your child. Learning that you are not the best, or as good as you thought, is a very humbling experience for a child to have to navigate. But, it is also a very important life lesson.
Before deciding what team to have your child join, there are some important questions that need to be answered. To place your kid on a team that is too much for them, too demanding of time, or perhaps, beyond their current skill level, runs the risk of a very bad experience that could ruin your youngster’s interest in the sport. So, ask yourself, just how interested is your child in the sport? Are they passionate, obsessive, or do they just like it, and want to play it? Secondly, and in this you need to be very honest, just how good are they at the sport? Will this be their first experience on an organized team sport? Do they have the skills necessary to compete with the more advanced kids on a travel team? Again, what every parent wants to avoid is placing their child in a situation that quickly becomes negative, and sours their child away from the sport, and teams in general.
Another issue, and one often overlooked, just how much time do you – the parent – have to support this team? How many practices a week will they have? Where are the practices, and how will your child get to and from them? When and where are the games? In some sports leagues, an entire weekend day can be consumed with competitions. Will this conflict with other family commitments?
Lastly, what is the financial cost of joining this team? Many leagues have a fee for participation on a team. These fees cover the costs of field times, referees and officials, and depending on the sport, the cost of minimally necessary equipment. An example is the catching gear for baseball and softball. In other leagues, the child is expected to have all the necessary equipment, which can range from cleats and shin protectors for soccer, all the way to shoulder pads and helmets for football.
Now, once you have made your decision, and the season has begun, please remember how important it is that you support your kids in a positive manner. You want to try hard to not be too tough on your kid. You don’t want to be “that parent,” who is yelling and screaming at the coaches, and the kids, like it is a pro game. These are kids, they are growing both physically and emotionally. At the same time, don’t let your kids quit, and then miss out on the great experiences being on a team can give them. Let them at least finish what they started, and learn about the importance of keeping a commitment.
It is going to take a team effort, both on and off the field, to help your kids get the most out of this team experience. That means working with the coaches, and other parents, and maybe even being a surrogate parent for a kid whose parents aren’t making it out to the practices and games. It will be worth it though. A lifetime of great memories, and super important life lessons will be gained through participation in team sports. I am still influenced today by the many positive experiences I had, and great examples set by my coaches, while playing football and wrestling during my youth.
Below are two helpful organizations whose sole purpose it is to help kids, parents, and coaches do a better job getting the most out of youth athletics.
Positive Coaching Alliance is a national non-profit developing “Better Athletes, Better People” by working to provide all youth and high school athletes a positive, character-building youth sports experience.
Proactive Coaching supports the development of character-driven sports, coaching for significance, and cooperative effort between parents and coaches to raise strong kids!
Article by: Ned M Campbell,who is head coach of James Madison High School’s wrestling team in Brooklyn, NY, and is a USA Wrestling nationally certified coach. He is a West Point graduate and former U.S. Army Officer, who also teaches history at James Madison High School. Prior to teaching, Ned M Campbell worked with children and adults with disabilities during summer programs with IAHD and Southeast Consortium, and volunteered time supporting a therapeutic horseback riding program for youth and adults with disabilities.
Campbell is a published writer, and a volunteer contributor to “Can Do” Street blog for kids and parents. In addition, he is the voice of Coach Campbell in “Can Do” Street programs.
Editor’s Note: Be sure to check out Coach Campbell’s co-article for kids, on this subject, featured on the “Can Do” Kids blog at http://candostreet.com/blog-kids/