In order to make youth sports a positive and enriching experience for all kids, it’s important to understand the challenges many families face in terms of participating in youth sports. This week we encourage families to consider 5 components of youth sports – one each day – and how it impacts your kids.
Day 1 Physical Activity
There are a ton of activities competing for your kids’ attention, and across the country physical activities like youth sports are losing the battle to sedentary activities like video games and handheld screens. It’s not that there can’t be benefit from those activities; it’s that kids miss out on some very valuable benefits from being active:
- Stronger bones: Bones get stronger through stress, and weight-bearing exercise during childhood and adolescence builds stronger bones.
- More opportunities: When you are physically active and fit you are ready for anything. You can hike to the top of the mountain, go on that cool mountain bike ride, or play basketball all day with friends. Whatever cool things come your way, you can jump in and go for it.
- Reduced risk of developing Type II diabetes: Type II diabetes is a disease involving reduced insulin sensitivity and production. Physical activity can increase insulin sensitivity and help with weight management to reduce risk factors for developing Type II diabetes.
Day 2 Living Healthy
We all want our kids to grow up and be healthy, thriving adults. Modeling that lifestyle is an important part of getting our kids to follow in our footsteps. That means you have to show your kids you value and enjoy being active, eating healthy, and being a good teammate (in life, in your career, and on the field). Especially when kids are young, they value what you value, so make sure you’re setting examples you want them to follow:
- Eat more fresh foods: Fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, healthy fats and whole grains should make up the vast majority of what you eat. Cut back on the fried foods, junk food, fast food, and packaged foods.
- Teach kids how to shop for groceries: Throughout their lives the one store your kids are going to visit more than any other is the grocery store. Teach them how to buy nutritious food and how to make their budget go farther.
- Exercise regularly: Teaching kids to live healthy has to be “do as I do” not “do as I say”. You don’t have to be a great athlete. You don’t even have to be good. You just have to have fun and demonstrate that physical activity is an integral part of your lifestyle.
Day 3 Create Access
Youth sports thrive where there are a lot of opportunities for kids to be involved, and when kids can be engaged throughout the year. To provide opportunities, we have to work to make access to youth sports easier and more prevalent. Parents, coaches, and businesses can play a big role in making this happen:
- Donate new or used sporting equipment to help ensure kids have the gear they need to participate.
- See if your company or your employer would be interested in donating money, services, or time to sponsor a local youth sports team or league.
- Advocate for the inclusion of any kid who wants to participate, whether this means sourcing adaptive equipment or lending your voice in support of the disadvantaged.
Day 4 Youth Development
Positive coaching is essential for a great youth sports experience, and it’s crucial for parents to reinforce lessons learned on the field at home. At TrueSport we provide educational lessons as downloadable .pdfs for youth sport coaches and parents. Topics range from sportsmanship to hydration, supplements to bullying prevention, and many more. Here’s what you can do to support youth development:
- Communicate: Great youth sports coaches aim to develop great kids as much or more than they aim to win competitions. Don’t just drop off your kids and pick them up from practice. Talk to your kids’ coaches to find out what you can do at home to reinforce the coaches’ lessons.
- Emphasize education: Make sure your student-athlete is both a student and an athlete. As much as we love the benefits youth sports impart on kids, a great education will serve them well whether or not they achieve success as an athlete.
Day 5 Stay Safe
None of the great aspects of youth sports matter if we can’t make sure kids are safe while participating. For parents most of this comes down to looking out for all kids, not just your kids. To borrow from the Department of Homeland Safey: if you see something, say something. Maybe it’s unsafe equipment, kids picking on a less-skilled athlete, an inappropriate relationship between a coach and player, dangerous or illegal supplement usage, or an aggressive parent on the sidelines. There’s an old saying that it takes a village to raise a child; be part of the village.