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The Informed Parent

How Important Are Sports For Your Child?

by John H. Samson, M.D., F.A.A.P.
Published on Feb. 15, 1999

We live in an age of sports emphasis. Athletics are a good endeavor for children of all ages. It keeps them fit and teaches them to work with their peers to achieve a goal. It also helps them to develop coordinative skills while having fun. Whatever team sport they participate in, they will be better for it unless the adults in the program distort the goals and make demands on the children beyond their physical or emotional powers.

As parents, we must see to it that the sports programs our children participate in are good, instructive and safe. We must also be sure that our demeanor helps our young athletes develop with a balanced and wholesome attitude to the sports world. Their first few years in organized athletics may influence their whole life. Here are some guiding thoughts for parents with young athletes:

a) Be sure the program is mainly educational, positive and fun.

b) Don't allow them to participate in a program in which the experience is one wherein a group of children are trying to satisfy the sports fantasies of adults.

c) As parents, we can't allow ourselves to live vicariously through the exploits of our children. This invariably places undue pressure on our youngsters. If you feel the need to compete in sports, do it yourself.

d) Be sure the coaches your children play for are not overbearing and demeaning to them. Don't allow them to use improper training methods or to instruct the children to use dangerous or unsportsmanlike techniques.

e) Take the time to meet the coach so you can evaluate the person who will be spending many influential hours with your child. The person who may, in fact, be establishing lifelong attitudes that will not only influence the child's sports world, but also school and home life.

f) After a game, don't dwell on your child's errors or negative performance. Find something positive to say about the game, the other team or the child's teammates. Don't harass your child for not playing to maximum potential. Instead let your conversation encourage better performance by making instructional comments in a low key fashion.

g) Be sure your little one always know your love and respect is not contingent upon his athletic ability or the number of awards he receives in sporting endeavors.

If parents follow these concepts, they will find the sports experience will bring them closer to their child and strengthen the much needed child/parental bond.

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