Team sports provide plenty of opportunities for kids to be physically active, which is essential to their growth and development. Sports also teach children new skills like communication, teamwork, and good sportsmanship, all of which will ultimately help them become strong, independent adults.
However, playing sports can also be both mentally and physically challenging for young kids. Anxiety and nervousness can negatively affect their athletic performance or keep them from ever joining a team in the first place. Therefore, it’s important that parents prepare their kids so they feel comfortable and confident enough to play and, most importantly, have fun.
1. Identify Fears
If your little ones are anxious about joining a team sport or playing in their first game, they’re not alone. Even professional athletes get nervous before big games. The key is to identify and harness that fear so that it doesn’t overwhelm you.
Ask your kiddos why they’re feeling hesitant or anxious and validate their emotions. Remind them that being nervous means they care, which is a great quality for any athlete or team player.
2. Review the Rules
Maybe your children aren’t sure about joining a team sport because they don’t know enough about the game. After all, if they’ve only ever seen baseball on TV, they probably aren’t aware of all the rules or phrases.
Review regulations and discuss different phrases they might need to know come game day. Eventually, you can talk strategy and execute different plays but it’s important to start with the basics. Build from the ground up and watch them grow into a knowledgeable, confident player.
3. Provide Protective Gear
Each year, more than 3.5 million kids under age 14 receive medical treatment for sports injuries. Yet, over half of these incidents are preventable, especially when players are wearing the right kind of protective equipment.
Keep your kiddos safe — and off the bench — by providing properly fitting gear like pads, helmets, mouthpieces, cups and eye protection. Because most injuries occur during practice, they should don this equipment regardless of whether they’re competing or training.
4. Watch a Game
Attending a game to see the sport up close is a great way to prepare your children for their first sports team. Attend a local tournament to watch the players and coaches in action. Explain the rules and different calls as the game unfolds and ask follow up questions to make sure your little ones understand.
Most importantly, remember to have fun at the game. Order snacks from vendors, take selfies and make memories together as a family. Making the outing a positive experience will cast the sport in a better light and make your kids more apt to join their own team afterwards.
5. Focus on Fundamentals
If your children are interested in one sport or another, teaching them the basics is an excellent idea. For instance, if they want to play basketball, you’ll practice dribbling, rebounding, assisting, passing and other fundamental skills. However, there are a few basic skills that every young athlete should have, regardless of which sport they want to play.
Help your little ones build muscle and increase coordination by practicing throwing, catching, jumping and hopping. Running, kicking and learning how to start and stop quickly are excellent abilities to have and hone as well. The best part is you can use any greenspace and practically any ball to get started.
6. Fuel Up
Setting players up for success begins in the kitchen. There, you’ll find everything you need to help your little ones fuel up for their first big game.
Prepare a meal that contains plenty of carbs and protein three to four hours before the competition. This way, they’ll have enough energy and strength to perform well. Serve water to prevent dehydration and remind them to keep drinking liquids throughout the day. Avoid sugary drinks and carbonated beverages as they can cause an upset stomach.
7. Embrace Failure
Many kids are afraid of failure because they think their mistakes will disappoint their parents, end their sports dreams or cause their teammates to reject them. These children allow even small mishaps to define them. However, if they’re to prepare for and succeed at sports, they must learn to embrace and learn from their failures.
When practicing at home, try to frame mess-ups as opportunities for improvement and take a holistic approach to helping your kids reach their goals. Tie each objective to a certain skill or positive mindset to help kids step outside their comfort and take risks. Most importantly, don’t put too much pressure on them to achieve results. That’s not what youth sports are about, anyway.
Having a Successful Season
Once your kiddos have officially joined the team, you might find yourself trying to coach or motivate them to try harder. After all, winning a few games would probably be good for the team’s morale.
However, you mustn’t hold your little ones to such high standards, especially during their first season. Instead, let them get used to team dynamics and discover their natural strengths and weaknesses. As long as they have fun, you can consider the season a huge success.