How to Keep Kids’ Sports Fun
You always hear this coach before you see him. They shout something about not being in their position or not running fast enough to chase the ball. Recently on Saturday morning, a coach in a nearby field shouted to a couple of boys running past that they should “play football.” They looked at him in bewilderment. The girls on my team were giggling because we were all here to play football.
I turned to the goalkeeper of our team and said with a smile: “Oh, I didn’t know that I should have yelled at you. Sorry, I’ll do it again. “
She smiled back, showing me the gap in my front teeth. Sounds good, coach.
This father – and many other parents – are sucking on the outside pleasure of playing sports.
I’ve coached girls and boys soccer for the past six years and learned one important lesson: if you’re not having fun, then your kids are not. Recreation leagues exist because sports are supposed to be fun. Let’s not ruin this. So, in case you’ve forgotten what entertainment looks like, here are some easy steps to make sure everyone likes it.
Guide your inner child
Remember how fun the kindergarten was? Return the kindergarten to practice. I’ve been a dinosaur and a fairy in training for many years. I once made a fellow trainer growl like a bear and meow like a cat. (He almost forgave me.)
There is a dribbling exercise that I still do with 11 year olds, and it makes them giggle like they’re five. I ask them to magically transform their ball into something else (egg, dragon), and then I ask them if they would try to steal this dragon. Then I try to steal this dragon (and find that most of my animal accents sound like a cow).
Remember, you can play too. One of the highlights of the season is our annual Children vs. Parents game. The girls lead their team and run in circles around coaches and parents, many of whom haven’t played since grade school. The game ends with laughter or when it gets too dark to play. Children always want to keep playing.
Cheer for hits and misses
Rejoice when something goes wrong. I applaud the effort, not the results. In life, you tell your children that everything will be fine if something goes wrong. Find the same compassion as a fan or coach.
Remind yourself and your kids that the other team is kids too. I am a fan of great saves and good games on both sides. After the game, I always tell the other team member one great thing that I’ve seen them do.
I’m not doing this just for them. I do it so that my team and my daughter can see how I do it. Bill Snyder, longtime and recently retired head coach of the University of Kansas football team, has written hundreds of handwritten notes over the years to cheer up rival players. Sports prowess is an important part of sport, but it can be learned by example.
After the game, do not fall into the trap of competition. If soccer legend Abby Wambach doesn’t give advice after the game, you should probably shut up too. Your child knows he had a bad game and their coach knows. They will most likely work on it in practice or just forget after a few days if you don’t remind them at the moment of how they failed. So you just created sadness.
Never stop bringing snacks
Think about how you feel when a cake unexpectedly appears in the office break room. This is how your kids feel about free fruit snacks and orange wedges. Snacks can be the best part of the game. Want to do your best? Bring snacks to your team and the other team. (Then plunge into the enthusiastic cheers of your new fans.)
The truth is, screaming is easy. But those are empty calories. You scream, and then you feel bad from what you screamed. This dad? The one that ended from the next field? A few plays after he lost his mind, he shook his head and didn’t say to anyone in particular: “Why are you making me scream?”
Nobody makes you scream. This is your choice. Next time, make a different choice. Remember that you are on the sidelines because you are on the side of your child.