Last month, US tennis star Andy Roddick retired from the game. At his post-match press conference a reporter asked what was going through his head as he sat on the side court before the final set. His response might surprise you: "Lots of things…matches you were playing when you were 12….my mom driving me to practice all over the place." It wasn’t his US Open Championship match. Or any other tournament win or loss. It was his youth sports experience that filled his mind and heart. It was his Mom in the context of his youth sports experience!
When you look back on your youth sports experience, what do you remember? And what do you think your kids will remember when they look back on their youth sports experience? As it turns out, many kids remember their parents. You play a larger-than-life role in your kid’s life – and in their youth sports experience. They look to you in the stands for your approval – and check your face to see if you’re disappointed when they make a mistake. They look for you when they win. And they seek your solace when they lose. You have enormous power to help your kids translate the lessons of sports to valuable life lessons – if you seize the opportunity.
1. Use sports to talk about goal-setting
Sports are a great environment to teach your kids the concept of setting a goal and working towards that goal. The discussion begins with understanding that your kids goals are for their youth sports experience. If they want to be the star player, help them break that down into manageable and achievable tasks. Help your child stay focused on their goals, rather than the scoreboard which, as the experts at PCA remind us, it out of our control! Goal setting – and achieving those goals – is a life lesson that kids can early and learn well – through sports.
2. Use sports to talk about how to handle disappointment
We all experience disappointment. But how we handle that disappointment is what distinguishes us and reveals our true character. Learning to deal with disappointment is not easy, but it’s a lesson that we hope our kids learn so that when the disappointments become bigger and more impactful in adulthood, they are prepared to handle it. Remind your kids its okay to be disappointed and acknowledge their very real feelings. Once the emotion has passed, take the opportunity to guide your child through an analysis of the situation. Make a plan together for overcoming the disappointment and how to move forward.
3. Use sports to focus your kids on getting back up and trying again
Bouncing back from mistakes is a central part of PCA’s Mastery Approach to youth sports. We all make mistakes – no one is perfect. Use Brush It Off techniques to help your kids see that mistakes are just part of the game. Highlight pro athletes who make a mistake and then immediately put it behind them and continue to excel. And help your kids see how they can use mistakes to propel themselves forward and learn from those mistakes.
4. Use sports to teach your kids about teamwork and teammates
Learning to be a good teammate is a life-long lesson we hope our kids glean from their youth sports experience. PCA uses a model of the Triple-Impact Competitor to help guide student-athletes in their pursuit of excellence as a teammate. An ideal teammate makes oneself better (personal mastery), makes teammates better (leadership) and makes the sport better (always Honoring The Game).
5. Use sports to teach perseverance: practice makes….
Not perfect (there is no such thing.) But how about pretty darn good! Practice makes greatness. We all need to practice to get better and reach our potential. And we have to persevere through some rough patches. Even the top athletes in their sports– have shared with the Responsible Sports team how they practiced for hours, perfecting their skills. And how when they lost they went back and worked even harder on their weak areas.
6. Use sports to help kids understand that ‘feedback doesn’t equal failure’
When coaches and parents give kid-friendly criticism, they help kids understand that getting feedback doesn’t mean that they have failed. It means that there are tips, strategies and suggestions for improvement. It means that the adult giving the criticism believes in them and believes they can achieve their potential. Criticism delivered in a Responsible Sports manner helps kids seize an opportunity rather than sulk away in defeat.
Andy Roddick paid his mother the greatest compliment when he confessed that it was his Mom driving him to practice that was running through his mind before the last set of his final match of tennis. We all hope that we make that kind of lasting – and positive – impact on our kids. And we all hope that we can seize the opportunity that youth sports presents us to help our kids learn these valuable life lessons. We hope you’ll accept the challenge and leverage the free tools and resources on ResponsibleSports.com
to help you make a lasting positive impact with your son or daughter.
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The Liberty Mutual Responsible SportsTM program supports volunteer youth sports coaches and parents who help our children succeed both on and off the field. We offer many youth sports resources including $2,500 community grants, instructional videos, weekly tips, peer and expert advice, and coursework for those interested in improving the youth sports experience for all involved.