Daniel scoops up the ball for his tee-ball team.
Alan and I are such a funny pair. People are always calling us “laid back” and fun, and sometimes, when they say that, I wonder, “Wow. Who else do they know because I think we are crazy high stress.”
And that’s just it. It depends on who you’re comparing us to. When we first started out as sports parents, we were just plain dumb about it. We’d over-coach our boys, worry about it when they didn’t want to play, and sign them up for sports they didn’t even like. We’d critique, and teach, and then wonder why our kids didn’t love it at first.
But over the years, we softened our approach. It made a huge difference. We went from having a son who said, “I just don’t want to ruin my own Saturday by signing up for baseball,” to having that same fella’ say, “Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays are my favorite days because that’s when we play baseball.” All in one year!
Alan is pretty much always the coach. Alan has a serious talent for it.
We’ve learned a few grossly important lessons in how to foster a love for sports.
Rule #1. You should have ZERO EXPECTATIONS.
And I do mean zero, especially when your kiddo is playing for the first time, or even the first few years. Do not expect anything at all. They are only learning how to play.
That way you can be over-the-moon excited when they make any good plays or catches or anything whatsoever, which brings me to rule #2.
Caleb, getting ready to run to first base
Rule #2: Every small victory is a BIG DEAL.
What you praise can depend on your child’s level too. For a newbie or a struggling athlete, dig deeper.
“Wow!!! You were totally paying attention and watching everything. That was so good!”
“You almost caught that ball that one time. That was great! You are going to be catching it so soon!”
“You are the best batter ever!”
Work with whatever they do. Praise them. I’m always reading articles telling us not to praise kids for their accomplishments. Ludicrous. That’s a super way to end up with a kid who doesn’t want to even try anything because they never feel successful. Trust me. Alan and I have sucked the enthusiasm right out of our children like that in the past, but we are learning!!
Now we are just always so excited.
We’ve been praising Caleb all year long, during the off season of baseball.
“Wow! Caleb you can throw!!! You have an arm. Yow! You gotta sign up for baseball this spring because, man, you are amazing.”
“Great catch!! Shew!! You have got to go back to playing baseball!”
And he did. He couldn’t wait to sign up, but he’s been practicing all winter, so he actually is pretty amazing. He tagged 2 or 3 different kids out as first basemen this past Saturday, and I couldn’t get over how far he has come. Yes, I know I’m his mom. I stand by my assessment. Amazing.
Dan and his best baseball bud
Rule #3: Help them make friends, or help them sign up to be on the same team as their friends. Either way, having friends on the team way ups the fun factor.
We were all in on it this year. We’d see Caleb’s buddy outside and whisper in his ear, “Please sign up for baseball with Caleb. Y’all can be on the same team. You will love it. Tell your dad.”
Occasionally do extra fun things to celebrate a good game or a new achievement.
And that brings me to our last rule.
Rule #4: When the game is over, your child doesn’t need your play-by-play critique of his or her game. All they need is “Great game! Did you have fun?” That’s it.
A few praises on what they did well that game won’t hurt either.
Most importantly, never despair if it appears your child has no athletic ability. They just need time to develop these skills. We’ve seen so much improvement with each individual season of basketball or whatever sport they try. It just takes time. They need us as their cheerleaders to keep trying and not give up.
And never compare your child to someone else’s. Just love your children for who they are. Who cares if their talent is in a different area than yours is? Keep up the praise. Maybe they will come around. In the mean time, please don’t sit on the sideline yelling instructions out to your five-year-old. It’s just wrong, and it’s a perfect way to kill any love that they may ever have for the game.
Just stick with the praise.
Great job reading!!! 😉 (Kidding, but you get the idea.)
See you at the ball field!