From teamwork and camaraderie to overcoming adversity, team sports introduce important life lessons. In some cases, however, athletics can also cause stress, burn out and too much competitiveness in young people.
It's important for parents to help their kids create a balance. The following five dos and don'ts will help parents and young athletes get the most out of the sports experience.
Do Set Goals, Don't Set Unrealistic Goals
At the start of a season, it's important for children to set goals. This will keep them motivated and give them something to strive for. Unfortunately, many young athletes set goals that are unclear and unattainable.
Setting a goal to become a better basketball player may sound like a good objective, but it's too broad and hard to measure. Instead, a player should have an attainable, specific goal such as learning to dribble the entire length of the court with his or her left hand. This is a quantifiable goal, and achieving this will help the young athlete become a better basketball player.
It's equally important for parents to have goals for their children. Unfortunately, the goals that parents choose can sometimes be unrealistic. If your goal is for your 10-year-old son to become an NFL quarterback, you need to refocus your mindset.
Even if your son is the best 10-year-old football player in the world, he's still 11 years away from even getting the chance to tryout for the NFL. This doesn't mean you shouldn't encourage your kids to dream big. Help them set short-term goals like making the grade school football team or learning to throw the ball 15 yards.
Do Encourage Proper Nutrition, Don't Promote Poor Eating Habits
Nutrition and proper health are important for growing kids and teens, but sound nutrition is even more essential for athletes. In his book, "Serve to Win," professional tennis player Novak Djokovic wrote about the diet that helped to transformed him from an average tennis player into the number one player in the world.
I'm not suggesting that young athletes copy Djokovic and adopt a strict gluten-free diet, but it's important for kids who are serious about sports to be aware of their health, eat right and get enough sleep.
As a parent, this is one area where you can set a good example. It may seem easier to take your kids out for fast food after a long practice rather than cooking dinner at home, and your kids might like to stay up late watching TV instead of going to bed at 9:00 p.m. But a greasy burger and a late night can have negative consequences for young athletes. Instead, establish an earlier bedtime and encourage a healthy post-practice dinner that you and your son or daughter can make together.