2018-08-09 / Sports


Are parents ruining sports for kids?
By Mike Wilson
Sports Reporter

Mike Wilson Mike Wilson “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” - Ephesians 4:29 (NIV).

Are parents ruining sports for kids? Are parents pressuring their kids too much, are they too harsh and negative in assessing their child’s athletic performance, or have they taken the fun out of playing sports?

Studies show that youth sports participation rates are declining and more kids are dropping out of sports at an early age due to injury, burnout, cost and access. According to the Aspen Institute’s Sports and Society program, 36.9 percent of children ages 6-12 played a team sport on a regular basis in 2016, compared to 38.6 percent in 2015. As recently as 2008, that number was 44.5 percent.

I think most teenagers receive very little positive communication from their parents on a daily basis. Here’s something that’ll make you think twice: “The majority of American conversations are characterized by a complaint,” says Scott Bea, Psy.D., a psychologist at the Cleveland Clinic.

We’ve all heard the parent who is constantly telling their student athlete what they are doing wrong, as their form of coaching, but negativity may even be more subtle than that, the words we chose may not be sending the message we think it is. How often do we say, “you have to - - - go to practice, do your homework, or clean your room? Bea suggests that instead of saying “You have to,” say, “You get to” In order for our kids to see things as an opportunity instead of a chore.

Our words are important, especially the ones we speak to our children. We need to be aware of the things we say to our kids and how those things will affect them. Are we encouraging them or discouraging them?

Remembering back to when I was coaching and umpiring, I remember cringing when I heard some of the things parents said to their student athletes and the tone in which they were said.

Are your words helpful for building your child up according to their needs or are your words discouraging and detrimental to their needs? There are well-meaning parents who want their child to succeed who don’t realize that their words are doing more harm than good.

“You have to” isn’t the only phrase you should drop.

Bea says that we tend to categorize ourselves with language in broad, sweeping terms that are often exaggerations. We say: “I’m lonely” or “I’m unhappy” versus “I’ve had some lonely moments” or “I’ve had a few sad days recently.” All of that can color the way we experience life, he notes.

While the former can seem overwhelming - almost impossible to beat - the latter leaves more room for improvement and also paints a more realistic, tangible picture of the situation at hand.

Just something to think about.

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