For many youngsters, the central point of their lives is twofold: family and sports.
Sports are where they learn to interact with peers, where they judge themselves against others, often where they build self-esteem.
Finding the best roles in youth sports for many moms and dads is important, but also confusing. There are so many aspects to consider, from when to encourage, to what to eat, from picking a program to knowing about injuries.
To help parents through the myriad of important decisions, Pop Warner has joined the GoodSports organization in presenting some education-based information.
If your son or daughter is playing or considering Pop Warner Football or Pop Warner Cheerleading, your encouragement can help them build a foundation for lifelong fitness. Sports promote strength, flexibility, endurance and coordination; improve concentration, attention span and confidence; and teach children to work with others toward a common goal.
The sad fact is that millions of young athletes receive little or no support from their parents. It's the lucky kids who have parents coaching them and cheering for them at games, guiding them through troubles and sharing their victories. Your encouragement, enthusiasm and guidance are just as important as your child's natural abilities.
What Parents Should Know
This is serious business for mom and dad -- children have a number of very understandable fears and concerns when they begin playing sports.
They can get nervous and frightened. Playing sports may be a child's first opportunity to perform in public. Many children feel self-conscious.
They can worry about being judged by their friends, embarrassing themselves, or disappointing their families and teammates. Let your children know that you are proud of them for trying no matter what the outcome. Reassure them that nervousness and fear are parts of the game, even for famous, experienced athletes. They can feel pressured into playing sports. No one likes to feel pushed into anything, sports included. Children will only enjoy activities that suit their talents, abilities and interests. You can help by encouraging them to investigate a wide variety of activities to find the right ones for their gifts and preferences. However, too much pressure, too early, can lead to mental burnout, injuries and quitting.
They can have problems with coaches. Different coaches use different styles to teach and train. Passive children may be frightened by aggressive coaches, just as aggressive children may be frustrated by more passive coaches. To find a good match, watch different coaches in action before and after your child joins a team.
They can get hurt. For a variety of reasons, injuries do occur. Your children should always warm up, use sound fundamentals, maintain their equipment properly, and receive medical attention when necessary. Children should never play when they're hurt.
They can experience rejection. Before try-outs, children should understand the basic rules and strategies of the sport. You must practice the fundamental skills with them. Too many parents overlook these responsibilities, but they can prevent discouraging, negative experiences.
What Parents Should Be
Be Informed. Learn about the basic skills, rules, strategies, equipment and practice drills necessary for a sport. Seek out books, videos, and magazines and consult local coaches. Your family physician may also assist you. You should schedule a thorough sports physical examination before your child begins to play.
Be Creative. Take your child to local youth games to gain experience and adjust to the atmosphere surrounding a sport. Watch televised sports with your child. As spectators, children begin to understand a sport, observe different technical levels, and see that even the best players make mistakes but get right back into position for the next play.
Be Involved. Meet with the coach prior to the season. Look for a positive perspective focused on learning, equal playing time and minimal pressure. Then, go to a few practices to see how the coach interacts with the team. Make sure no dangerous training methods, such as depriving players of water during practice, are used.
Be Committed. Listen to your children and show an ongoing interest in their activities. Be there for the disappointments and successes to help keep them in perspective. Also, look into instructional camps, workshops and lessons that can help further their athletic development
The Pop Warner/Good Sports Alliance is committed to helping parents play an important, positive role in their children's athletic development. We believe no sport is perfect and neither is any parent or child. Even if you make mistakes, your involvement is what counts. Youth sports can create a bond between parents and children that lasts long after that final touchdown or cheer. Parents have the joy of watching their children develop physically, mentally and socially, while learning skills and lessons themselves that can be valuable not only in sports but in all of life's arenas.