We’re pretty clear on the positive value of sports in the lives of kids. Quite simply, sports are an incredibly effective and fun way to learn important life lessons including the value of hard work, fair play, resilience, perseverance, etc. That said, sometimes all the players in youth sports—parents, coaches, kids, and supporters—have trouble keeping sports in perspective. We all want our kids to do their best, but when we focus too much on results and performance and not enough on the value of struggle, character and teamwork, we miss out on the life-changing skills and traits sports can teach us.
What’s a parent to do? And what on earth, in the heat of competition, are we supposed to say? We’re here to help, with a few excellent videos that you can watch, and even send on to someone who might need to get the message. Sure that may sound a bit passive aggressive, but it’s for a good cause. One mission of the Positive Tracks’ Good Sweat Blog is to help parents and coaches reinforce all the positive things about sports, and not contribute to the negative ones. The videos are a time investment, so we’ve summarized them, here. You can prioritize and decide when you want to hunker in with some popcorn and take them on.
First up is Jim Thompson, founder of Positive Coaching Alliance.
If, as a parent or coach, you haven’t checked them out, you should scamper on over to their site and peruse their mission, methods and language. For example: Coaches have a double goal focusing on both winning and life lessons; Athletes are triple impact competitors looking out for themselves, their teammates and the game; Parents relentlessly focus on the second goal, learning life lessons from sport.
Every year the PCA compiles the ten best and worst moments in youth sports. The worst (athletes punching refs, parents abandoning kids on the highway after a bad game, coaches berating kids, etc), Thompson blames on the wrong culture we have created around sports. It has evolved into an entertainment culture that values winning at all cost vs a culture that uses youth sports as a Development Zone aimed at developing better athletes/better people. He shows how each respective culture deals with bad calls, losing streaks and the scoreboard, and clearly explains the benefits to be gained by supporting the development zone culture.
The PCA’s best moments in sport are referred to as Mallory Moments, in honor of a softball player who helped an opposing teammate score her rightful home run. (Watch the video, and all will be explained.) His point is that all coaches, parents and athletes will, at some point, be faced with a Mallory Moment, when we can act or react in a way that elevates the game. It’s up to all of us to do the right thing – to put sportsmanship first as a way to honor the game and all its players.
This next video is by John O’Sullivan, writer of the most excellent Race to Nowhere article. The elite soccer coach and author founded the Changing the Game Project after learning that of the 40 million kids who play sports in our country, 70 percent drop out by age 13. His observations and stories are bolstered by studies and surveys that reveal why kids quit sports and how parents and coaches can best support them to stay in the game.
O’Sullivan learned that the single greatest factor to improving performance is state of mind. Yep, being happy matters. This is yet more motivation to not be the The Nightmare Sports Parent who can greatly hasten the end of sports as a positive force in a kid’s life. (Don’t want to be that parent? Hint: back off during the car ride home). His single best takeaway advice can be boiled down to 5 simple words that parents can say to their kids: “I love watching you play.” That’s it. Simple but powerful.
This next one is a quick watch, and shows how good people can turn into “bad sports parents” in just a few adrenaline-spiked moments. It also gives clear examples of how you can lead your conversations with kids to better support a healthy attitude towards sports and team.
I saved the longest for last. You’re welcome. Go ahead and set aside a half hour to chill out and watch this one on navigating youth sports, by Rosalind Wiseman, author of Queen Bees and Wannabees, and Masterminds and Wingmen. An engaging and totally in-the-trenches, down-to-earth expert of social dynamics, Wiseman takes you through actual scenarios with kids on the playing field, in carpools, and one on one, offering scripts for how to utilize uncomfortable, unpleasant or simply awkward moments into teachable moments for kids, parents and coaches, alike. Rosalind will give you the strength to be this parent who takes on hard issues head on (even if it makes for some super awkward moments), and not that parent, who loses a grip on what really makes sports healthy for kids.