Some of the same thinking leading education transformation in our schools is also changing the thinking around community and school sports. Debates over keeping score at a soccer game with 10-year-olds are similar to discussions on whether we should be giving Grade 4 students letter grades. And, seemingly, there is a growing movement to move past the era of the uber-zealous sports parent.
A recent column from Lawrie Johns, Sport Parents Must Have Realistic Expectations is an excellent read. Of course, Lawrie has a lot of credibility on this topic with me. Both his boys, now in their early 30s, are very well-adjusted young men, and I had the opportunity to teach and coach a little bit of basketball to his younger son, Brian, who also represented Canada at the 2000, 2004, and 2008 Olympics in swimming. This dad knows what it is like to raise a child who has become an elite athlete. Lawrie advises:
Some suggestions for parents: No after practice/game interrogation. Understand the rules of the sport – leave the officiating to trained officials – better still – become one! Cheer on efforts BY ALL not just yours. Learn about sport nutrition and hydration. Learn about injuries – they are part of sport (unfortunately) but how to support the athlete though an injury is crucial.
Lastly – Have Fun!
It makes sense that parents need to be educated partners in their child’s sports, as in their child’s schooling. Another great source for information along the same theme is the Steve Nash Youth Basketball Coaches Blog. To quote a recent post:
Those five words – “the courage to be patient” – give a picture of the great potential . . . and at the same time highlight the problems that exist in the reality of an ultra-competitive youth sports environment. More specifically, having the “courage to be patient” seems to involve doing four very difficult things, and the failure to do any one of these four things (resisting external pressure, controlling internal desire, being a great teacher, maintaining faith) may explain the disconnect between potential and reality.
So, as families head back to the soccer fields and hockey rinks in the community, to the cross-country races, school volleyball courts and football fields in the fall, hopefully, times are indeed changing. Competition is awesome! But we know better than even a decade ago about how to ensure our kids have good experiences that will last a lifetime and not be burned out or turned off of sports by age 12. Lawrie’s column offers this perspective:
There are about 750 NHLers today out of hundreds of thousands boys playing hockey in this country.
There were 31 swimmers on the national team in London – out of over 100,000 who compete through clubs in Canada. There were 12 on the women’s Olympic basketball team – over 150,000 girls play basketball. Eighteen players on our bronze medal women’s soccer team – over 500,000 girls play youth soccer.
In sports, like in the classroom, we want our kids to work toward big dreams, but we also want some perspective. I have a great passion for sports. School sports adds richness to the culture of our schools; community sports bring people together and we (parents and kids) learn wonderful lessons through our participation.
We need to ensure that sports are not overrun by a culture of early specialization, private elite programs and self-focused athletes and parents who instill an NHL or Bust attitude in our programs. We need to reverse the trend of fewer young people participating in organized sports and to also ensure we have opportunities for kids, with varied sport skills, to continue playing. We want our passionate athletic sons and daughters not to lose their passion about their sport as they get older.
There is nothing quite like the fun of sports — that is the whole point of it. As Tim Elmore suggested in a recent post, the most powerful six words we can say to a child involved in sports, ” I love to watch you play.”