Making Youth Sports An Uplifting Experience
By Rick Wolff
Posted: Wednesday March 30, 2005
One of the truly glorious aspects of youth sports is the way entire towns rally around their kids. These days, youth sports encompass almost every weekend of the year, from soccer and football in the fall, to hoops and hockey during the winter, to baseball and lacrosse in the spring. And most of the time, these programs are created, organized and overseen by dedicated grown-ups–often volunteers–who more than anything want what's best for the kids.
In recognition of that, Sports Illustrated Good Sports, a partnership with the National Recreation and Park Association and Dodge, will help everyone put kids first in community sports programs. In December we will honor towns that “do it the right way.” Until then, at sigoodsports.com and in this space, we will provide helpful hints you can use to improve the sports experience not just for your own kids, but for every child in your community. To start, here are a few ideals every youth sports parent, coach and official can embrace:
Teach the Fundamentals Youth sports introduce kids to important concepts such as honest competition and team commitment, but too many of us assume young athletes learn these things on their own. We know we must instruct kids on fundamental skills, but more important, we must teach the fundamentals of sportsmanship. Ask your youth sports director if such formal instruction exists. If not, you can volunteer to help create it.
Encourage Change I've always been a proponent of changing rules and policies to meet new circumstances. Saying “we've always done it this way” isn't good enough. After all, there was a time not too long ago when girls weren't allowed to compete in such sports as soccer, ice hockey and baseball. If you feel the time has come to reevaluate aspects of your youth sports program, get together with some other parents and ask the board of directors to hear you out.
Take Action My town didn't have a high school hockey program, but the combination of the kids' enthusiasm and the efforts of a number of sports parents resulted in the Byram Hills High School ice hockey program. (At least a dozen more high schools in our region followed our lead.) Always be proactive, trying to think of what would make youth sports more fun and more meaningful to everybody in the community.
When we read the all-too-frequent headlines of youth sports parents who are out of control, many of us simply hope it doesn't happen in our town. It's up to you to make sure it doesn't. It's up to you to create a positive sports environment for every child in your community.
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