The road to raising young athletes today is more often than not filled with hazardous conditions.
As a young athlete myself, I was overtrained, burned out, in constant pain, and developed some extremely unhealthy dietary habits. This is what it took to be an elite athlete. Or so I was told. In fact, if I wasn’t in pain this meant I was not training hard enough. If I couldn’t handle the pain this meant I was weak. By the time I was 13 years old I’d had three knee surgeries in the space of a few months and my career was over.
Had I have known how to do things differently I am certain my story would have had a different ending. The good news is … things can absolutely be done differently. It’s always so refreshing when I visit places where this is being done – as was the case during a recent visit to London, Ontario where I met my mini me. My mini me was raised a USANA baby. She is taking a much different path than I took and being taught the right way to do things from the beginning. It goes to show things can be done differently and I am so excited to watch her grow, and succeed, in her chosen sports and do so in a healthy and fun way.
Children begin participating in sports for one reason. FUN! However, coaches and parents can get so overly involved in their children’s sports they undermine growth and performance. This coach and parental influence is not just seen at the professional level either.
Approximately 73% of children who participate in organized sport will quit by the age of 13 because of pressure from coaches and parents. The “fun” is taken out of playing and competing.
So, how can we keep kids motivated and help them achieve their sports goals without burning them out?
First we must shift the emphasis from winning at all costs to having fun and playing – whether you have an elite athlete on your hands or not. Let your child decide what their sports commitments will be. Your job as a parent is to help set healthy limits and realistic expectations. Our ultimate goal is to instill a lifelong love of fitness and sports. Coaches and parents who are able to do this will be the ones who are the real winners.
Be sure to choose the right coach for your children. A good coach is critical in helping children develop the skills and abilities they need to excel and succeed in their chosen sport. The best coaches are ones who are positive, offer lots of encouragement, emphasize both skill development and good sportsmanship, and know how to progress children at the right speed.
Expose your children to a variety of sports and let them choose which sport they love best. Children have the desire within themselves to compete and excel at sports A parent, or coach, cannot force a child to succeed as an athlete. Although many try! If you find yourself doing this, take a step back and examine your own reasons for wanting your child to compete in sport.
Always keep your comments positive and encouraging. Let your child know that it’s not the end of the day if they do not win an important game or meet – this could be their most important lesson.
Children look up to their parents and mentors. They want to be just like you. Are you being a good role model by setting a good example for your children with the lifestyle you yourself lead?
The habits children create today will have a striking impact on their health throughout adolescence and adulthood. Be sure you’re setting a good example. Our ultimate goal is to guide children to a lifelong enjoyment of sports and physical activity.