Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Asher at Bat - We Encourage Our Kids to Participate in Organized Youth Sports

There is a wide range of available opportunities in our current culture for organized youth sports. There are as many sports as there are kids to play; as many games as there are days in summer, fall, spring and winter. There is baseball, lacrosse, badminton, gymnastics (several kinds), track and field, soccer, hockey, volleyball and I'm sure plenty more I'm not even aware of. In each, there are varying levels at which to participate.

There are community leagues; parents volunteer to manage, coach and assist with administration. Often associated with national organizations, many communities give these groups priority for field time and park access. Little League Baseball and American Youth Soccer Organization are just two examples.

In some communities there are park district leagues; anyone can sign up and everyone plays. Organized and administrated by local city parks and recreation departments these leagues often hire young adults to assist with teaching and coaching.

There are travel leagues and travel teams; in some cases, there is still parent coaching and managing. Though in these leagues, it is more likely there will be a privately hired coach. Training for the players on these teams is usually more intensive. Some of these teams will require try outs, others won't. These are basically club sports that are private. Participation in competitions is administrated through a larger organization. USA Gymnastics for gymnasts is an example.

And in the good ol' USA.
There are school teams, some where everyone plays and some exclusive. On the exclusive school teams, coaches choose players based on skill and ability already achieved and demonstrated at try-outs. Some school teams will include training and skill development, but don't count on it. Some school sports are not available to everyone.

Whatever level of participation you choose for your young athlete, there are fruitful experiences to share.

Benefits for the athletes:
  • Productive, keep busy activity
  • Social time with a purpose
    • Family involvement and activity
      • Parent and son/daughter time
        Many life lessons including:
        • Being a part of a team
        • Learning about, how to handle competition
        • Learning what it takes to achieve excellence
        • Learning to work with others
        • Learning to encourage others
        • Learning to find appropriate mentors


        Bring up the topic at any adult event where parents are present and you will hear plenty of arguments for and against the competition inherent in sports participation. The fear and trepidation regarding the competitive nature of sports has actually become one of my reasons to encourage participation. Our world is saturated with competition and  based on what I know about human nature, it's not going away anytime soon. So let's dive in and wrestle with it. Let's be in the process of understanding it with our kids. Let's not just throw them in on their own and pretend that if we only choose the right activities (art & theater) for them, they won't encounter it.

        Parents and coaches can (and should) have ongoing conversations about the games they are a part of and the competition involved. Listen to your young athlete's impressions and understanding. Don't make assumptions about what it means to them. Usually they have deeper understanding then we know.

        Keep Talking

        Consider exploring for yourself and with your athlete some of the following questions:
        What is your goal for today's game or practice?
        What skill do you want to practice to improve?
        How can I help my teammates?
        How can I contribute to my team?

        One Example From Our Experience
        Little League also offers suggestions

        Our son, Asher, by his own choice, began playing   T-Ball at the age of five. Having watched his older brother play countless games already, Asher was an astute player when he first took the field. The rules of T-Ball were to him, unfortunately dumbed down. On one occasion, riding home from a game he talked T-ball rules. Angry and indignant to the point of tears he recounted a play that involved his impressive throw to first base. The throw beat out the runner but to Asher's dismay, the runner was allowed to stay on base. The meaning to him was that his effort wasn't acknowledged. To him the rule change negated the effort of his throw. Explaining that each player comes with different levels of skill and knowledge, especially at that age, was important. However, the experience reinforced for him the desire to gain skills to move on to experiences with more competition, not less.

        Whatever level of participation you choose for your young athlete, there are fruitful experiences to share. Staying involved and active in sports can be worthwhile. There is learning and growth to be enjoyed at the gym or on the field for every family member, just keep connecting to one another and Play Ball!

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