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by Jay P. Granat, Ph.D.

Related: sports, child, experience, team, sportsmanship, athletes,

  Sports play a huge role in our society. Increasingly, younger and younger children and their parents are feeling the pressure to perform well as athletes. What can you do to help you kids enjoy sports — and succeed at them? Here are 10 tips to begin.

1. Do what you can to make sure your child is having a positive experience. The wrong coach can turn a kid off to a sport, or worse, to sports in general. Similarly, conflicts with teammates and peer pressure can make the experience unpleasant. Help your child work out these interpersonal issues; in some instances, you may need to intervene on his behalf.

2. Is your child better suited for team sports or individual sports? Some kids love the camaraderie of being part of a team. Others prefer competing on their own. And of course, some like both.

3. Your children learn a lot by observing you and your spouse. Model good sportsmanship, grace, gentleness, and integrity. We have all read the horror stories about parents who are out of control on the athletic field, in the gym or at the rink. If you behave inappropriately at these venues, your children are apt to do the same.  

4. Lots of kids have difficulty managing busy schedules that include games, practices, travel, and cross training, not to mention family activities and schoolwork. When parents and kids are spread too thin, kids can get overwhelmed. Help your children find a balance and make sure they do not have too much on their plates.

5. Be aware of burnout. If your child has lost some of her enthusiasm or her performance has declined, she may be burnt out. Talk with her to see if she needs a break, a challenge, a different approach to her sport, or a new sport.

6. Is your child an elite athlete? Elite athletes show mature talent and exceptional drive early on. I counsel many athletes who fall into this category and they usually report loving their sport at an early age. They love practice and they usually can compete successfully with those who are a few years older than they are. 

   If your child is an elite athlete, you will discover that the age of specialization has crept into sports. While there are some children who can excel at several sports, most top athletes focus on one. In addition, baseball players don’t just have a baseball coach; they have a second base coach, a hitting coach, and a pitching coach, too.

7. If your child wants to achieve a high level of success at sports, it is important that he, his coach, and you have a good working relationship. If there is constant friction, something is wrong and needs to fixed. I frequently intervene to help everyone to get on the same page.

8. Expect to have different coaches and trainers during the course of your kid’s athletic career. This is normal. Be open to switching because different coaches teach different things and they can all have a positive impact on your child.
9. Many young athletes are clueless about the mental aspects of their sport. For example, I counseled a very talented tennis player who knew zero about the strategy of the game and less about her own psychological strengths and weaknesses. Similarly, I have seen hundreds of talented young golfers who can hit the ball well on the range but who fall apart on the course. And many baseball players with great swings cannot hit in game conditions because they think poorly about themselves when they step up to the plate. If you want your child to excel, help him understand the strategy as well as the psychological aspects of his sport.  

10. Do whatever you can to teach your child to be relaxed, confident, focused, and optimistic on and off the court, field, or rink. Show them how to manage both success and setback gracefully. And make sure they know that they are loved by you whether they perform well or poorly.

JAY P. GRANAT, Ph.D., is the founder of www.StayInTheZone.com. He has written books and developed programs for athletes, parents, and coaches, and has appeared in major media outlets. Dr. Granat can be reached at info@stayinthezone.com or 888 580-ZONE.

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