What can parents do when they feel their kid’s experience is not what it could be? They want the best for their children, yet they don’t want to create a conflict with the coaches.
In the last article, I explained that it’s okay for parents to want a positive sports experience for their kids. Rather than giving up and just accepting a bad situation, it is possible to address these issues in a respectful and constructive way.
In this article, I want to present the first of three steps that you can take as a parent when things are not totally right with your child’s sport experience.
The first thing to do is to ensure that your uneasiness is true – that it is based on what kids expect out of sport and not out of your own personal dissatisfaction. So, why do kids play sports in the first place?
A Michigan State University study asked kids why they play sports. The top three responses from kids were:
- To have fun
- To do something I’m good at
- To improve my skills
Second in the ‘Parent expectations in hockey’ series
This four-part series details what parents can do to ensure that their kids are having a good experience in hockey.
I dug a bit deeper and found a website dedicated to the same question. A few years ago Peter Barston began asking kids, “Why do you play sport?” Over the years, thousand of kids have responded to Barston’s survey.
The results [PDF] were similar to the Michigan study: The top three reasons kids play sports are to “have fun, to improve their skills, and to stay in shape”.
An article on the same topic in Psychology Today also lists “having fun and improving my skills” as the top two reasons that kids play sports.
So, it’s simple: If your kid chooses to play a sport, it is reasonable and justified to expect that the experience is fun and that they develop their skills through the process.
If your “unease” comes from other reasons, like your kid’s team is losing or won’t make the playoffs, then it’s better to let things be.
I should note that it goes without saying that most people understand that kids expect minor sport to be a fun experience. But it’s not always clear for minor sport associations and coaches that the majority of kids want to improve at what they do.
There’s a good reason why so many kids list “improving my skills” as a major reason to play sport. When they develop their skills in any activity, their confidence grows as well. The more confident they become, the more they enjoy doing the activity. This is a key fact to remember: increased skills leads to increased confidence and enjoyment.
In the next article I’ll present ways to figure out if your child’s team is meeting the basic and fundamental expectations of fun and development.