When Is Your Child Ready for. . . SPORTS?

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the final article in our three-part series on age and readiness. This month we asked the experts …

Whether your child likes to run, jump or make a splash, there’s an athletic activity that’s right for him. Sports is not only fun, but fosters the healthy development of young bodies. Numerous studies reveal the importance of regular exercise to promote fitness and help build motor and coordination skills. Participation in sports also provides a welcome antidote for the sedentary American lifestyle, which too often includes an overdose of video games and fast food. “An early athletic program introduces children to physical activity in a positive way, and makes it an essential part of their life as they grow older,” says Alex Rabinovich, owner of Lana’s Gymnastics in Flushing. But when is a child physically and psychologically ready to undertake a sports program? While infants will benefit from some sports programs, others require higher levels of maturity. Experts point out that not all children will catch on at the same rate. Starting a child before they are coordinated enough for an activity can result in feelings of frustration. Sometimes it helps for the child to spend time on the sidelines to observe. Don’t push too hard. Remember a child’s enthusiasm may not always match your own. While fantasies of your little pro playing at Wimbledon may dance through your head, parents shouldn’t put too much pressure on their kids to perform. Forcing them to play when they are reluctant can backfire and create negative feelings. Team sports builds a sense of belonging and cooperation, but parents should take care to keep winning and losing in perspective. Young children find it difficult to grasp the concept that they will not always be on the winning side. It’s important to applaud a child’s efforts and make each player feel like a winner, regardless of the outcome of a competition. Children remind us that playtime is an essential part of our daily routine. We as parents and caregivers need to provide them with the opportunity to learn and grow through sports such as swimming, martial arts, gymnastics, and soccer. These activities teach children socialization, teamwork, and the importance of being the best they can be.

Here are some guidelines from the pros:

SWIMMING When getting into the swim of things, it’s important to know crucial points such as at what age it is best to learn to swim before heading to the pool. Sally Petrone, director of Aquatics at Asphalt Green, finds that getting kids into the water as babies is useful. “Kids who are comfortable in the water as babies really make the actual teaching of swimming quite easy. That way, when they are between the ages of 3-5, learning to swim in a group works quite well. It varies quite a bit from student to student, but if they have the fear, or can overcome the fear and put their faces in the water, learning to swim is not too hard,” she says. As to the best approach to teaching children how to swim, Petrone says, “Learning in a group is the best way for most children. That way they can look to other children for inspiration.” Asphalt Green does not use flotation devices that are attached to the body; instead they use kick boards and other devices to isolate parts of the body. Classes are kept to a ratio of about five children to one teacher for children under 5, and around seven children to one teacher for children over 5. “Having the pool warm is helpful and we keep the pool shallow to begin and get it deeper as they progress,” Petrone says. “We teach the actual strokes right at the beginning. We do not teach the ‘doggie paddle.’” To actually learn the strokes, Petrone recommends that children be about 3 years old. “To have the motor coordination to swim on top of the water using the crawl arm motion, we feel that this can be done at 18 months,” she says. “But we like them to start getting used to the water even as early as 4 months. They have to be able to hold up their heads themselves before we will take them into the water for a class.” The instructors at Asphalt Green must have special training to teach swimming to young children. While a Water Safety Instructor’s certificate from the American Red Cross (ARC) is preferred, Asphalt Green does not teach the exact Red Cross levels. Instead, they combine ARC with the American Swim Coaches Association curriculum. “We do quite a bit of in-house training so that everyone will teach the curriculum in the most efficient and knowledgeable way possible,” Petrone says. How often a child should take swimming lessons is a question many parents ponder. Asphalt Green recommends that children take swim lessons until they know the five basic swim strokes (freestyle, backstroke, elementary backstroke, breaststroke, sidestroke and butterfly). This way they will be able to use swimming as a lifelong sport and exercise, Petrone explains. “But we do caution parents not to be surprised if it takes their child up to at least two sessions of 10 weeks each to pass from one level to the next. Learning to swim is a slow process,” she says. “We find that if they can have access to a pool for lessons or practice two to three times per week, they advance much more quickly than they would having only one lesson per week.” ___________________

At the 92nd Street Y, Ellis Peters, coach of the 92nd Street Y Flying Dolphins swimming team, recommend that children should start learning how to swim as early as 6 months old. “Don’t wait too long to get your child in the water,” Peters suggests. “Babies are natural swimmers, and older children have a more difficult time getting over their fear of water. There are many different views on what age is safe to start. At the Y, we follow the Red Cross guidelines and start children at 6 months old. Babies and toddlers should always be accompanied by a parent or caretaker in the pool.” All of the instructors at the 92nd Street Y have Water Safety Instruction (WSI) certification from the Red Cross and CPR for Professional Rescuers from the Red Cross. According to Peters, there are two standard approaches to teaching children how to swim. “Group classes and private lessons are the approaches used at the Y — and both have advantages,” she says. In private lessons, kids get personalized attention and form a bond with the teacher. In group lessons, kids get the benefit of socialization; they also make friends and learn to associate the water with fun, she says. “I tell parents to think about how their kids learn, when they are deciding between the two approaches. No matter who is teaching the child, the basics of learning to swim are blowing bubbles, putting their face in the water, and floating on the front and back,” Peters says. As to how often children should come for swimming lessons, Peters says, “It depends on the age of the child and the child’s level of interest. Once a week is fine for very young children. Kids start on our team, doing two or three practices a week, at about age 6. A competitive swimmer should practice several times a week.”

MARTIAL ARTS Martial arts expert Bruce Lee paved the way for many to express themselves beautifully through the sport. Mario Guerrero, of Manhattan Tae Kwon Do, says the initial start of learning martial arts depends on the child, as well as the parent. Managing the parent’s expectations is the hardest part. “Can a 4-year-old learn to kick and punch? Yes. Does he understand when to kick and punch and have self-control in situations? Probably not,” Guerrero points out. At Manhattan Tae Kwon Do, kids are taught based on their age and maturity level. Kids begin at age 4 in the Little Warriors program, which is geared toward teaching basic life skills, such as teamwork, leadership, self-control, impulse control, listening and social skills. The program also aims to build flexibility, coordination, strength, and stamina. At age 6, kids can join more rigorous Tae Kwon Do classes, where the basics of martial arts are stressed in a more structured environment. “This program is where the kids begin to really learn how to kick and punch, and the body self-awareness that is required,” Guerrero says. “We stress the self-defense aspects of martial arts as well as the self-control, discipline, and perseverance needed to succeed.” As for one of the key aspects of the programs, Guerrero says, “We relate these skills to their lives — school and home.” Before any child is allowed a promotion to the next level, the student’s schoolteacher, parent, and martial arts instructor must sign a form stating that the student is “acting appropriately.” Many teachers and parents have begun to use these forms to help influence their child’s behavior at home and school, he says. Instructors at Manhattan Tae Kwon Do are required to have a black belt in martial arts from an accredited program such as the World or International Tae Kwon Do Federations. Instructors also need previous experience teaching both kids and adults, completion of their in-house training program, and “a true love for teaching,” Guerrero says. How often should children take martial arts lessons? According to Guerrero, two to three times per week is plenty. “We teach in a fun, friendly community environment,” he says. “We are not the traditional martial arts school of the past. We want every kid to succeed in a positive atmosphere. We want to make the world a better place, one kid at a time. We do this through teachings about courtesy, integrity, self-control, and perseverance.” ______________

Tiger Schulmann’s Karate schools, well known throughout the country, has its flagship school in downtown Manhattan. Sensei Rapoport, its senior instructor, says he sees children as young as 3 who want to be a part of the Karate Cubs. The program, for children ages 3-5, focuses mainly on motor skills such as balance and coordination. Sharing, taking turns, and dealing with parent separation are some of the elements the program aims to instill. “Children at this age level are more able to take turns with equipment in a class than a child who is 2 years old. Karate Cubs learn martial arts through stories, which, in turn spark imaginations and make it a fun experience,” Rapoport says. Children ages 3-5 should take lessons once a week, he says, while older children should strive for two or three times a week for consistency. At Tiger Schulmann’s, children ages 6 and up participate in the regular martial arts programs, learning basic karate techniques. Basic blocks, punches and kicks are the cornerstone of this program. Basic blocks are used to protect the head. Punches such as jab, cross, uppercut, and hook, and kicks such as axe, knee, snap-front and power-front are all incorporated into classes. “Through these moves, children are also learning self-defense,” Sensei Rapoport explains. Each child is looked at individually as they progress from level to level. “A hybrid style of martial arts is the school’s focus while keeping everything fun and exciting. The children enjoy themselves in a fast-paced environment that is also quite disciplined. Through discipline children learn self-discipline.” The training for all Tiger Schulmann Karate instructors is intense and demanding. Instructors must have a black belt and undergo in-house training for many years to perfect techniques and learn how to instruct both children and adults “I myself trained for 15 years under Tiger Schulmann, founder of Tiger Schulmann Karate,” Sensei Rapoport says.

—————————————— Sensei John Mirrione at Harmony by Karate began learning karate at age 2 under the supervision of his father. Now John leads classes for children, who are also as young as 2, at his studios. “A 2-year-old can learn karate in the most simple fashion,” Sensei Mirrione says. “Learning how to stand still with hands at his/her side is an accomplishment within itself. A child learns discipline, focus, and respect.” Mirrione says his philosophy of teaching karate to children “is based on slow motion movement. It is important to stretch and breathe and learn all moves slowly in order to perform the movements at a faster pace. Through these slow moves, a child is more likely to imitate the movements of an instructor, and make a connection with the instructor, which will allow the child to make a connection with him/herself.” What basic skills should a child possess in order to begin karate classes? Basic walking skills and some ability to follow instructions, Mirrione says. Prior to enrollment, he adds, parents must also write letters of consent on behalf of their children, describing the character and goals of the child. Once a child enrolls in classes, he or she can expect to work in a class of children of various ages. For instance, 2-year-olds are placed in classes with children up to the age of 5. A 6-year-old child may be placed in a class with children up to the age of 12. “Maturity and mastery of karate are also taken into consideration,” Mirrione says. “An older child who is mature and advanced may move on to adult classes. In any of the classes, we use cross-age teaching, in which the older children help the younger ones under the supervision of the instructor.” All instructors must train with Sensei Mirrione for 50-100 hours. “Techniques are unique to Harmony, so it is important that the instructors work with me prior to leading their own classes,” he explains. As for how often children should take classes, Mirrione says twice a week is sufficient but once a week is the bare minimum. Private lessons, good for technique development, are also available. But any child who receives private instruction must also attend group lessons to make the social connections with other children. “Overall, children need to find balance in their lives. Overconsumption of one thing may impact learning. It is important to diversify and have two different activities, such as karate and music or karate and ballet,” Sensei Mirrione says.

Gymnastics Jodi Levine, owner of Jodi’s Gym in Manhattan and Mt. Kisco, says they strive to provide a nurturing and fun environment for children of all ages. “A child as young as one can start in a Mommy and Me class,” Levine says. At a very young age, their focus is on encouraging movement and allowing the children to become comfortable with their bodies. At age 3, children learn pre-gymnastic skills such as balance, body strengthening and coordination to help lead them to the next level, Levine says. By age 5, they are ready to learn real gymnastic skills such as cartwheels, handstands, bridges, and pullovers on the bars. Equipment in any class needs to be suitable for the age group partaking in lessons, she stresses. “Basically, children can start at any age as long as the classes are age appropriate.” The gym employs over 45 instructors between its two locations; all instructors are safety certified by USA Gymnastics and have first aid and CPR training. Levine herself has degrees in both physical education and psychology, and was a gymnastics competitor at the national level. “All trainers must have an understanding of child development — knowing what a 2-year-old can do and what a 5-year-old can do,” Levine says. “Most importantly, our instructors need to be able to really relate to children and parents. Other skills can be taught; this one can not.” How often a child should take gymnastic lessons depends on the age level and interest of each child, she says. “A child who is 3 years old should be coming once a week. A child who is 5 years old may want to come more than once a week if they truly want to be here.” _____________________

From golf to roller-skating, Chelsea Piers has something for every age level. Peter Kormann, director of gymnastics, oversees a gymnastics program in which children as young as a year-and-a-half old can participate. “Once a child is fairly comfortable walking, a child can start creative movement,” Kormann says. “A child as young as 17 months participates in a class with a caretaker.” Classes for this age group prepare the children for actual gymnastic moves, Kormann explains. They work on anything from spatial awareness to such movements as jumping and landing, hanging from a bar, and using a trampoline. “At 3 years old, children are in class by themselves and begin to work on actual gymnastic moves. We work on balance, strength, and flexibility. The children get the added practice of learning to follow directions and learning how to socialize in a group.” As to what teaching approach is best for children, Korman replies: “While each teacher has a different teaching style, all of the instructors know that the classes have to be fun. That is the most important thing: the children have to have fun. Teachers also need to be creative, motivated, enjoy teaching, and take the sport of gymnastics seriously.” Most of the teachers at Chelsea Piers have previous gymnastics coaching experience and many were gymnasts; they also need to have certification from USA Gymnastics. Kormann was a U.S. Olympic gymnast. In 1976 he was the first American to win a medal for the floor event. How often should children take gymnastic lessons? “If a child is between the ages of 3 and 4, once a week is fine,” he says. “The children look forward to coming each week and the one class is challenging enough for beginner gymnasts.” If older children demonstrate the aptitude and desire for gymnastics, he recommends they take lessons twice a week. But he stresses, “We look at each child individually. It really depends on the child.” Classes usually have anywhere from five to seven children and one instructor. Clinics are taught, and beginner instructors are shadowed by more experienced instructors.

SOCCER Gustavo Szuvlansky, of Super Soccer Stars, says children can learn to play as young as age 2. “The gross motor skills using the large muscles of the body are well developed enough to begin the basic steps of soccer,” Szuvlansky says. “The advantage of introducing them to this sport at a young age helps children hone their skills for following directions and socialization — relating to other children their age.” Using positive reinforcement as a tool to remove too much competition is the best approach to teaching kids to play soccer, Szuvlansky says. “We need to remember that children’s feelings get hurt from negative words and instruction, so it is always best to keep things positive. It is not about winning or losing, it is about having fun. And learning soccer skills is a gradual process.” At Super Soccer Stars, young children learn the basic skills needed to play soccer while having a good time. “While millions of boys and girls of all ages in the United States want to learn soccer, only a small percentage of them know how to play the sport,” Szuvlansky says. “Unlike baseball, in the United States, soccer skills have not been passed down generation to generation.” Unlike many other popular sports, soccer provides a great opportunity for children of all sizes, he says. Children should receive instruction a minimum of once a week and then gradually increase their lessons based on their interests and age level, Szuvlansky suggests. “At Super Soccer Stars, your child will never feel he is too short, skinny, or too weak to become a good player. Enhancing his or her self-confidence and reassurance about being a fundamental part of a team is our primary goal.” All instructors at Super Soccer Stars must know how to play soccer and go through in-house training. “But much more important is for our instructors to know how to relate to children of all ages,” Szuvlansky says. ______________________

Another local option is the United Soccer Academy, where “children as early as 3 years old can be introduced to soccer,” according to regional manager for promotions and marketing Neil Richards. “From the ages of 3-5 years old, the focus is on social interaction, not formal coaching, as there are differences in development with children in this age group. The fundamentals of soccer, such as kicking and catching, are taught to children at 5 or 6 years old.” All coaches at the United Soccer Academy must have a sports education background and degree, and three years of coaching experience. They also must obtain a European Soccer Coach License prior to beginning training at the academy. Once in-house training is complete, coaches receive a United States Soccer Federation certificate. How often should children receive soccer instruction? “The minimum is once a week for young children,” Richards says. “Children between the ages of 8 and 9 years old should have lessons twice a week, and game practice to enhance their skills and possibly prepare for joining a soccer team.” The United Soccer Academy joins forces with the American Youth Soccer Organization each summer in Prospect Park, Brooklyn, for camp programs. Children ages 3-16 have the option of going for one- or two-week sessions. Among the many camp programs offered are the recreation and Soccer Squirts programs. The recreation program, for children ages 7-13, enables each player to experience a range of techniques and skills, leading to a rounded soccer experience. The aim of the curriculum is for each player to build upon the fundamentals of the game in a structured format developed daily through small-sided games. Soccer Squirts, for children ages 3-5, takes place in a fun-filled environment. “It is a great way to introduce your child to soccer in a camp format through games and activities designed to ensure fun and learning. The emphasis is on fun, fun, and fun,” Richards says. Private instruction through individual and small group training, is available throughout Manhattan. Richards says these programs can be used to give children the individual attention they may need to brush up on existing skills before an important tryout, or as a means to progressively improve a player’s technical skills.”

BASEBALL Big Apple Sports Club gives children who are interested in baseball the fundamentals of the sport as well as an opportunity to play the game. Director Luis Henriquez believes it is never too early to teach a child baseball. “Placing any kind of ball in a baby’s crib or play pen allows a child to get familiar with a ball. Children below the age of 5 can work on eye-hand coordination and have fun while doing it,” Henriquez says. Instructional classes at Big Apple Sports Club begin at age 5. At this age, children continue to work on eye-hand coordination and the basic skills of the sport. For children ages 5-7, the focus moves to actual moves, such as throwing, running, hitting and learning the proper form of each move. After-school programs and Little League baseball are offered on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Henriquez recommends that children ages 5-7 come to play for one game and then attend an instructional class to work on drills. “It is all about fun. The children need to enjoy themselves,” he says. “Our instructors keep that in mind when they are with the children. Instructors need to be knowledgeable about the sport, like children, and of course have fun with the kids in the classes and while playing.” In addition to baseball, classes in soccer, football, basketball, and kickball are also available.


Another local option for baseball instruction is the Baseball Academy at Chelsea Piers. Neil Jeter, who spearheaded its baseball program, is quick to point out, “Coming from a family of baseball players, it is my experience that it is important to expose children to baseball as young as possible. Of course, this determination is based on each child and his/her developmental level.” Usually, Jeter says, children begin instruction between ages 4 and 5. Once a child expresses interest, that’s a good indicator that they’re ready for formal instruction, he says. “A child should also be able to conceptualize how the game should look, be able to catch a ball, and execute the fundamentals of the sport as they receive instruction.” T-ball classes are offered for age 3. “This is a wonderful class for those who are not as fundamentally sound or coordinated,” Jeter says. When teaching children how to play baseball, it’s important that instructors make it fun, Jeter says. “We motivate and encourage each child, and individualize the approach used, based on the child’s needs. We work as a team for the children,” he says. The staff at the Academy have all played college baseball, and have some other sort of previous experience. Some of the instructors, including Max Krance, Daryl Bannerman, and Jen Powel, were minor league baseball players. Jeter himself played in the minor leagues for quite a few years before coming to Chelsea Piers. “For a young child, or for an older child who is purely playing at a recreational level, once a week is sufficient,” Jeter says, when asked how often it’s appropriate for children to receive instruction. But he adds, “If an older child wants to play for a school team, college ball or even professional baseball, I suggest that the child practice five times a week. We encourage children to practice their trade.” Chelsea Piers offers both group and private instruction. Private instruction, offered every day of the week, allows children to develop a repport with the instructor. “Group instruction, in small groups, sometimes provides better success for the child — as they are socializing with other children and getting an idea of what the game should look like,” Jeter advises. For children ages 5-12 years, the classes have no more than 5 students and one instructor. For children 13 and up, there are no more than 8 eight students and one instructor per class.

The focus on sports for children is more than learning the fundamentals of the sports themselves. Building self-esteem, self-confidence, and having fun are the true rewards. Allow your child to experience all that sports can offer and you will see your child develop into a stronger, better-rounded individual. As Earvin “Magic” Johnson said: ”All kids need a little help, a little hope, and somebody who believes in them.”

Sarah-Beth White contributed to this report.

Sport Resources Swimming 92nd Street Y, 92nd St. and Lexington Avenue (212) 415-5718; www.92ndsty.org

Asphalt Green, 1750 York Ave. at 91st Street (212) 369-8890; www.asphaltgreen.org

Swim Jim , 515 East 72nd Street (212) 749-7335

NY Swims , 75 West End Avenue (212) 265-8200

Imagine Swimming Hunter College, North Pool , 69th Street Entrance between Park and Lexington Avenues Gramercy, Brookdale Pool, 425 East 25th St. between First Avenue and FDR (212) 253-9650; www.imagineswimming.com

Take Me to the Water (212) 828-1756 Various pool locations at private health clubs throughout Manhattan

Jewish Community Center , 334 Amsterdam Ave. and 76th Street (46) 505-5708

Soccer Carlos Oliveira Soccer Academy , 101st Avenue and Riverside Park (718)743-9402 or (917) 532-3512

Soccer Champs , 225 West 80th St., Suite 6C Lessons and soccer camps are held at The Heschel School on the Upper East Side, and in the Hamptons during summer months. (212) 873-8622

Super Soccer Stars (212) 877-7171; www.supersoccerstars.com 12 locations throughout Manhattan

United Soccer Academy (908) 823-0130, www.unitedsocceracademy.com

Martial Arts Manhattan Tae Kwon Do , 215 West 76th Street (212) 721-2240; www.4blackbelt.com

Sports Club LA/Reebok Sports Center, 330 East 61st Street (212) 355-5100

Tiger Schulmann Karate, 39 West 19th Street (212) 727-0773 Locations throughout the 5 boroughs and throughout the United States

Harmony by Karate (646) 387-2073 Two locations: 160 Columbus Avenue in the Reebok Sports Club, and 330 East 61st Street in the LA Sports Club.

Richard Chun Martial Arts , 220 East 86th Street (212) 772-3700

Baseball Asphalt Green 1750 York Avenue at 91st Street (212) 369-8890

Big Apple Sports Club Inc., 2472 Broadway and 93rd St. (212) 987-9853

Chelsea Piers, The Field House, Pier 62, 23rd Street and the Hudson River (212) 336-6500; www.chelseapiers.com

Gymnastics Chelsea Piers, 23rd Street and the Hudson River, (212) 336-6500; www.chelseapiers.com

Jodi’s Gym, 244 East 84th Street (212) 772-7633, 25 Hubbels Drive, Mt.Kisco (914) 244-8811

NY Kids Club, 265 West 87th Street (212) 721-4400 The WHEN IS MY CHILD READY FOR … series can be accessed at our website: www.nymetroparents.com. Under ‘Search Our Editorial Archive’, key in ‘ready for lessons’ for our March 2003 article on classes in the arts; and ‘hygiene’ for our April 2003 article on first medical checkups.



How To Be A Great Baseball, Basketball or Soccer Parent

By Jean C. Joachim My husband, Larry, and I co-coach our 10-year-old son's soccer team. We have been doing this for over five years. After a while, you begin to see behavior patterns among parents that can make or break a child's sports experience. Here, then, are ten ways you can contribute to you child's sports experience:

1) Leave Your Ego at Home. Your child's sporting experience is about him or her, not about you. If your child's team wins or loses, it has nothing to do with you and will not impact your life in any way. You will not lose your job if your child's team loses, or get a raise if they win.

2) Your Child is Learning About More than Just How to Play the Game. At least half of what your child is learning is how to be part of a team. This means that he or she is learning how to be tolerant of teammates’ successes without jealousy, and failures without blaming. When one boy on our team blamed the goalie for letting in a goal, my husband positioned him as goalie for the next game. When the other team scored on him, he had much more sympathy for the previous goalie. We never heard him berate his goalie again. It takes a while for the children to learn to play as a team. Friendship, respect, and camaraderie are important for optimum team performance, and for having a good time.

3) Want to Coach? Volunteer to Coach. Don't Coach from the Sidelines. Your child cannot hear more than one person at a time. If you and your coach are hollering instructions, who is your child going to listen to? If you are so knowledgeable about the game, volunteer to coach. Otherwise, keep your ideas to yourself.

4) Do Not Criticize Your Child's Performance. Parental criticism does not belong on a sports field. Our soccer league teaches us positive coaching and forbids even the use of the word ‘don't’. Your child is learning how to play; don’t expect him or her to be a star athlete at seven, 10 or even 15. Your criticism will just be discouraging and hinder your child's learning and performance.

5) Do Not Idolize Your Child. It is rare that one child keeps a team winning, but if your child is a star, that's great. Do not push to have him or her get more play time, and do not berate other children who do not have as much innate talent as your child does. Kids’ sports is not about creating another Michael Jordan or Mark McGwire. It's about learning to play the game and having fun.

6) Come to Every Game. Your child cannot progress in his or her favorite sport if they miss games. Missing games makes everything harder for the coach who has to decide in advance who is playing what position or how many quarters. It is detrimental to the team when players do not show up, and can result in forfeiting a game. This is unfair to the children who come, and shows a lack of respect and responsibility on the part of the parents.

7) Come to Scheduled Practices. This is an important time for your child to learn the finer points of the game and hone his or her skills with someone watching who knows what they're doing. You will find their performance much improved at the end of the season if practice is well attended.

8) Show Respect for the Referee. I admit I've seen some incredibly bad calls. But the referee is just a volunteer, and a human being, like I am. Sports teaches your child how to take a bad call and keep going. This is a valuable life lesson. We've all had some "bad calls" in life and had to pick ourselves up and keep going. We teach the kids that, " if the referee didn't see it, it didn't happen and if he did see it, it did happen." If we get a bad call, we encourage the children to buckle down and work harder. Screaming at or criticizing the referee is the worst sportsmanship possible and unacceptable on any court or field.

9) Expand Practice. Take your son or daughter outside and practice with him or her. Throw a ball, shoot some hoops, or defend the goal while your child shoots. Encourage your child to practice with friends. One practice won't produce miracles. Kids have to work consistently at a sport to become good at it.

10) Take your Child to Pro, College or High School Games or Watch on TV. Watching more experienced players and discussing what's going on is a good opportunity for your child to learn more about the game and to see it played well. They will see that bad calls and team support are part of the game.

Kids’ sports is about having fun. After every game I ask the boys on our team, "Did you have a good time?" When they nod their heads, I know we did a good job.