As the new year approaches, this is a wonderful time to help your child learn new things. We believe that their is no better life-skill teaching tool than youth sports.

As a a father of two children who played virtually every team sport from age 5 and are still playing sports in high school, I have a few tips that can help you and your child to have a longer lasting, positive, relationship with youth sports.

1. Teach your child to fall in love with playing sports
Of course we can never control what our kids will love. But by allowing your kids to play sports- for fun, and without pushing them and pressuring them, they will continue to just keep having fun playing. If they love to play, they naturally become a part of a team, they learn valuable habits and skills that will serve them well for a lifetime.

2. Help them learn to compete.
Yes, I said compete. Competition is actually a healthy skill for your child to learn. We are not saying to advocate to win at all costs- they need to learn that competition is about trying your best and trying to win.

3. Teach them how to lose.
As important it is for them to learn to try to win, they need to learn how to lose gracefully. We have found that the sooner they learn that losing is not the end of the world, the sooner they learn to get back up and try again.

4. Help them to learn the basics.
For each sport, there are fundamental skills and rules that your kids need to know to have a chance to become successful. In order for them to truly enjoy the sport, they need to improve their skills and become more successful. Often camps and clinics are a huge help to allow them to learn the basics in a less competitive environment.

5. Be careful of overdoing it.
Why kids want to play sports, and why parents want their kids to play sport, most likely are not for the same reasons. You will most likely want them to play to learn life skills and create healthy habits. Your child will most likely want to play for fun or to be with their friends. It is so important to let them just have fun. If you push to hard, they may lose interest and never have the chance to develop a love of the game.

6. Encourage them to try lots of different sports
Many people are selling that kids need to specialize and do so at an early age. I say that is simply not true. The kids body and mind is like and all terrain vehicle and need to be driven that way. Allow, even encourage them to try lots of different sports, play on different teams with a different group of kids.

7. At home, stay low key.
Many feel that it is important to keep church and state separated, so is it important to keep home a safe space. The more we can engage our kids and help them to learn and play is best for sure, but it is also very important that kids feel that when they come home, if they want, they can have a break from discussing the game they just played. Parents, remember that everything you say can and will be used against you.

8. Allow your child to help pick what they want to play.
You may have been a high school star in one sport and your child may have no interest in it. As hard as it might be to swallow, it is more important that your child like the sport they are playing than you the parent.

9. Find the right league or camp for your child.
It is important that we push our kids at times, but it is equally important that they are in a youth sports program that fits their level of interest and competitive nature. Putting a beginning on a traveling AAU team can be setting them up for failure.

Five Warning Signs of Burnout

With your child having practices and games each week, is your child getting tired of the sport?

Do they not want to talk about the sport anymore?
Do they make up excuses to skip practice?
Are they not excited before a game?
Are they tired all the time and maybe not sleeping well?
Do they want to avoid of court/field team activities?

What is the remedy?

1. Talk with your child – Ask them what they want.
2. Back it down if you can – Maybe less one-on-one training.
3. Do it with them – Play the sport with them and keep it fun and light.
4. Take a break – you can always come back.

Being involved with youth sports is an amazing journey and goes by so fast. I hope that you have the opportunity to experience the highs and lows, the practices, the games, the tournaments and the countless hours of commitment, as one day… It will all be over. But in the end, I truly hope that your child will have had the opportunity to learn the valuable lessons that only youth team sports have to offer. If my staff or I can be of any help along your journey, player, coach, official, administrator or parent, please reach out to us.

Aaron Locks
Dad, Coach, Author, Speaker, CEO and Founder, National Academy of Athletics