After a long, cold winter cooped up with the family, both parents and kids are eager to head out to the athletic fields when warmer weather comes. Kids don team uniforms and gear, while parents schlep folding chairs, coolers and sunscreen. If the kids are still young, parents may be able to sneak in a quick kiss — and a glob of well-placed sunscreen — and wish their kids luck for the game. Older kids just strut out onto the fields and maybe give a sly wave to show parents that they know they are there.
All in all, it's a fun, family scene that plays out on soccer fields, baseball diamonds, swimming pools, and running tracks all across America. And it would be perfect, if it weren't for one thing.
On many of these fields, no sooner do the kids start playing than the parents start shouting — at their kids, at other parents' kids, and at the officials. It starts off as a means of encouraging their kids to succeed in the game or meet or match. But if often times misses the mark and turns into howls of disapproval (at best) or even violence (at the absolute worst).
Sports psychologists even have a name for this awful behavior: Little League Parent Syndrome. If you have ever been to a Little League baseball game, you know exactly what this means. It's parents who get so caught up in the moment of their kids' sports that they scream insults, curses or even threats to the kids (their kids and other parents' kids) as well as the officials.
Kids sports are supposed to be fun. And they are supposed to be about the kids. But more often than should be acceptable, they are about parents superimposing their dreams and expectations and goals on their kids — putting pressure on them to succeed and win — at any cost.
So how can you keep sports fun for kids?
The key is to let your kids make the choices when it comes to the sports that the play. It sounds like a no-brainer but it is easy for parents to push kids into sports that they want their kids to be good at rather than listening to their kids about what sports they want to play.
Experts also recommend that kids stick to one sport per season. That's easier said than done, especially if you have a kid who wants to play soccer and baseball or swim and run track. If your kids are really motivated to do more than one sport — and if the practice and game schedules work well for your family — than by all means go for it. But make sure once the season is over that your kid has some solid downtime to rest up and recover.
Another big rule to keep sports fun for kids: Don't ask them whether they won or lost a game and don't dissect games and practices on the ride home. It's not helping them to be better at their sport. It's teaching them that you are focusing on the mistakes. No matter what happens on the field or in the pool, the first four words you should say to your kids afterward should be, "I loved watching you." That is all.
In the end, that's all your kids really want to hear.