It is a milestone in any athletic parent’s life: Your child is old enough for sports, and you are ready to sign him up for whichever sport you have been craving since your baby was old enough to roll a ball across the floor. While it is an exciting time, keep in mind that your child’s first experiences with team sports will stay with him for years to come. Making sports fun from the very beginning will help your child develop a positive attitude, great team skills, and most of all to have fun! After all, why spend your time doing something you don’t enjoy? Here are some tips for teaching your kids how to keep the “fun” in sports.
Cheer Your Team, Don’t Boo the Other Team
One of the quickest ways to teach your child that sports is a negative experience is to boo the other team, especially if you do it because they win a game. Booing the other team is negative behavior—don’t even go there. Teach your child that it’s nice to congratulate the other team on winning and there is no reason to become a sore loser. Someone has to win, and someone has to lose; it’s the nature of the game. There will always be more wins and losses ahead, so teaching your child to keep composure after the game will give him a winning attitude no matter what the score.
Be Your Child’s First Cheerleader
Yes, cheerleading can be taken too far. If you are the only parent in the stands that anyone can hear, you might be taking things a bit too far. On the other hand, if you are the only one cheering at all, encourage other parents to cheer along with you. Sports games have cheerleaders for a reason—they lead the crowd in cheering for their team, adding energy to the game, and encouraging the players in a positive way. Go ahead and try it.
Encourage, Don’t Discourage
Everyone has days where they feel like they just didn’t do a great job, whether it is at home, at work or in sports. If you child missed a game-winning goal, remind him of the great job he did at something else, whether in the same game or a previous one. Point out that it happens to everyone, even you; and then tell him how it turns around. Don’t discourage him by telling him he needs to do better, but encourage him by saying he will.
Celebrate Even if Your Team Loses
Have an after-game tradition, and follow it after every game, win or lose. This way it shows your child that the reward is for playing the game itself, rather than what the scoreboard said at the end.
Heap on the Praise
Praise everyone who deserves it, including your child, teammates and even members of the other team. Show your child that it doesn’t matter if you played against someone on the field, you can be friendly afterwards. If someone made a great play, praise him. If someone almost got another player out, congratulate them on how close it was. Remember that it can be just as good to be close as it can be to win.
By keeping a few simple rules in mind, it can be easy to keep the focus on positive energy during and after a game. Avoiding negativity will give you and your child the best sports experience possible and teach him what it really means to be a good player.
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