So how do parents find the right sports program for our kids when we want them to develop skills, learn teamwork, get exercise and all they want to do is have fun!
There are several concepts that I feel will help parents as they go through the process of deciding which program will best suit their needs and the desires of their child.
KIDS WANNA PLAY
Play is very important part of any youth sports program. If we look back at when we were kids, we fell in love with playing sports and being active by doing one thing… playing with our friends around the block. The challenge is that it is not safe for us to allow our children to just go play down the street with their buddies and be home before the street lights come on. The overriding premise of the report is that free play or downtime as some call it is essential to the cognitive, physical, social, and emotional well-being of children and for that matter, adults too!
So what is the answer? We suggest that you be very selective in which league, camp, or team you choose to sign your child up to play. Take a look at these factors:
Most quality leagues or camps will include some level of instruction. The ones that many parents will agree are best have the correct blend. That is why I created, TALK.TEACH.PLAY®. Talk is keeping the conversation to a minimum. In fact, we limit instruction to just 3 minutes. Next is Teach. We keep this to 6 minutes. This is important but it must be done in an engaging and enthusiastic manner. Keeping the kid’s attention and offering the child a chance to learn a skill, develop the skill, and then play. Last but definitely not least is Play. We allow the kids to play with minimal corrections or directions. All we do is reinforce the rules of the game and encourage them to get after it! Have fun!
Competition is very important, having said that, if the child is put in a situation to compete or play, but has no fundamental skill or understanding of the rules of the game, we are setting them up for failure. The best youth sports programs have a great balance between instruction and competition.
We have league all the way down to 3 years old. To me, this is crazy. I would be very careful of league play until the child is in 3rd grade. If you are going to put your child in organized sports at a younger age, I would be sure that it is a developmental program with lots of free play as part of their schedule.
What is taught is so very important, but do not forget to find who is doing the coaching. The message should be delivered to the kids by coaches who have been background-checked and trained. I have found that college athletes tend to be great teachers of the game. They still have the athleticism to do the skills and the kills look up to them
The reality is that providing the opportunity for your child to play team sports is very important. I just remind parents that it is a marathon, not a sprint. Take your time, play with them, and have a plan. For my kids, as they were growing up I had them participate in a camp or clinic in each sport before I ever signed them up for a league or any real competition.
If we can be of any help, feel free to email info@NAofA.us and I will reply.
Thank you and good luck on the journey.