published Sunday, February 14th, 2010

Ten tips to help youth survive a frustrating sports season

By Jack Perconte

McClatchy-Tribune

Don’t be fooled by the title of this article because it could easily have been titled, “10 tips to help parents survive their child’s tough season.”

Failure and disappointments for young athletes often affects parents more than kids. Most kids are more resilient than they are given credit for and it is their parents’ reactions to their performances that cause tension in players and families.

Because of the difficulty of all sports, great patience is required by all during a season and from year to year. Disappointment and frustration can easily occur in sports and without understanding and guidance by a player’s parents, their season or career can be ruined when people panic at difficult times. It is important that parents and coaches help players get through these times so total frustration does not set in and so that players do not get to the point where they want to quit playing.

Of course, it is not always a bad thing when kids want to give up playing sports, but it may be when they enjoy playing but can’t handle the disappointment it causes them and/or their parents. Unfortunately, the result is that many talented athletes leave sports at young ages because there is not adequate patience shown and encouragement given by adults.

Following is advice to help kids get through rough games and to help adults feel like they are doing all they can to help their kids:

1. Parents should think long term it is not mandatory that their child is a star at a young age. What is important is that parents stress the importance of work ethic, determination and perseverance.

2. Along the same lines, encouraging kids to have long-range goals is good. In that way athletes do not feel overwhelming pressure to do well each and every game. For example, making the high school team is a good goal for young ball players.

3. Parents should have reasonable expectations of their child’s play and potential. A practical expectation is that players work hard to improve during the season and accept the outcome knowing their children prepared the best they could.

4. Parents should not show their own frustration in front of kids and should remain as upbeat as possible. When kids see that their parents are remaining positive, it will help them remain that way too.

5. Giving kids a few days totally away from the sport during a rough stretch is advisable.

6. Remind hard working players that practice pays off eventually, and remind not so hard workers that good results only come with hard work.

7. Remind players that you always believe in them and that they are so much more than what they do on a playing field.

8. Remind athletes of times they did well. Parents should recall those successful times too.

8. Watching blooper tapes of that sport can provide some laughs and help players realize everyone makes mistakes.

9. Trying to get players to “smile” when on the playing field can relieve tension and help them understand that they should not take the game and themselves too serious.

10. False praise is never advised, but trying to point out little things where the player improved at or did well in a game can be helpful.

Finally, one of my favorite phrases I would say to athletes during struggling times was, “Play with no fear.”

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