As parents, we want to see our kids succeed, in school, in sports…in any challenge they undertake. So when they are young, we fill up their lives with structure–sports practices, music lessons, tutors–that enhances their chances of success.
This is never more clearly seen than in youth sports. Parents are in hurry-up mode without even realizing it. They are in a hurry for their kids to be good. They want their kids to be the best, or at least good enough to make the team, start, or get lots of playing time.
This desire to see their kids be good makes them easy prey for getting sucked into early sports specialization, even though many experts, professional athletes, and doctors warn against it.
In 1981, psychologist David Elkind wrote a book called The Hurried Child. He argued that kids are being turned into adults far too quickly, and described the traumas of kids forced prematurely into grown-up activities and roles.
This hurry-up mindset has taken over youth sports. Alistair McCaw, world reknown trainer of athletic champions, explains that developing sound fundamentals is key because kids need to develop their neuromuscular abilities and the ABS’s (Agility, Balance, and Coordination). This is a process that cannot be rushed; it should be done slowly and carefully, to last a lifetime.
Hurrying up the process of a child’s sporting development is like trying to bake a cake and rushing the process. You take it out too early and it will flop.
Parents, when it comes to youth sports, here’s some tips for slowing down:
- Variety. Let your children try different sports so they can develop several athletic skills. Let them have fun!
- Free time. Time magazine notes: “Kids who once had childhoods now have curriculums; kids who ought to move with the lunatic energy of youth now move with the high purpose of the worker bee.” Don’t schedule every minute of your children’s lives. Be sure they have plenty of time to just be kids.
- Encourage Play. When kids don’t play freely, they miss out on self-discovery and exploration.
- Wait. If your child continues playing and truly loves the game, there will be a time in his athletic development when training and specialized coaching are appropriate and in fact, very beneficial.
How often do we as parents see our kids push to get what they want NOW? When they want immediate rewards and results, we tell them to be patient because things take time.
But adults do the same thing, I fear, when we hurry the process to see our kids improve, excel, and achieve success. Let’s purpose to enjoy the journey more and rush our kids less.
Janis Meredith, coach’s wife for 28 years and sports mom for 21, has been spreading the message of positive sports parenting for four years through her blog, podcast, and videos. She recently launched an at-home video course to help sports parents keep the sports dream alive for their kids, instead of pushing them away from competition. Learn more about the course, Parenting Your Child Through a Positive Youth Sports Experience.