Published on Wednesday, 30 November -0001 00:00
Every year there are too many instances when spectators become out of control when children are involved in sports. The beginning of the spring sports season is a good time to stop and remember what is important about these activities. Young athletes face pressure to win from their parents, coaches and peers. But in reality, it is not possible for everyone to win every event. Young people need to be taught the skills to cope with losing. Greg Homan, an Extension educator in Ohio, found in his research that when adults were positive there was a higher level of enjoyment by youth. Here are some ways to keep kids interested in sports or other programs: Encourage them. Keeping children active keeps them healthy and helps them develop healthy habits to last a lifetime. Be a good role model. Children learn by example, so show them how to practice good sportsmanship. Don't expect win at everything. Show them how you handle losing (shaking hands and congratulating the winner, for example). Keep it fun. Asking "Did you have fun?" verses "Did you win?" says a lot to a young person. Get their input about what sport to sign up for. Don't force them to play the sport you lettered in, or the sport you always wanted to play. Teach personal responsibility. Young people can take personal responsibility for their actions if it's modeled and expected. If a child made a bad play, so what? Don't point fingers or pass blame. Get involved. Sports teams need adult volunteers as well as encouraging parents. Adults are essential for getting young people involved in programs outside of school hours. Homan's research suggests that "significant adult support can have a positive impact on the youth staying involved in the sport or other activity." Youth sports provide a wonderful way for children to have fun, develop skills and establish a healthy lifestyle. However, if the experience is to be the best it can be for all participants, it is necessary for adults to learn what young people want and what is appropriate for them. Brian McNeill is a 4-H youth development educator with University of Minnesota Extension.