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Overzealous Parents, Coaches Take the Fun From Kids' Sports
Date:10/13/2011

most students," Sims said.

Experts offered these tips for parents and coaches to keep the fun in the game.

  • Winning isn't everything: Sims has coached volleyball, basketball, tennis and women's power lifting. She's heard kids call themselves "losers" when they don't win. That, she said, "is a great opportunity for me to explain what winning is. Is winning always being first? Is it always going to be about the score? In my opinion, winning is a journey. It's giving your best."
  • Don't compare one player to others: Keep the focus on the child doing his or her personal best, rather than how the child measures up to others.
  • No kid should be a bench warmer: Elementary and middle school is way too early to have second-string players, Sims said, and a skilled coach looks for ways to make sure all kids get something out of playing. "No matter if it's Little League or high school, winning is secondary and athletes are first." Help them feel included and worthy.
  • Try several sports: If soccer or basketball isn't your child's thing, maybe dance or swimming will suit them better. "There are so many things that kids can play. Our job is to help them find the love of movement," Sims said.
  • Don't start them too young: Opinions differ on the right age to start kids in organized sports, with some recommending delaying until kids are 6 or 8. No matter when a child starts, don't treat the child as a "mini-adult" who is being groomed for a professional career, Sims said.
  • Keep it fun: "A few adults will dutifully go to the gym. But kids aren't going to do that. It's got to be fun," said Peter Gray, a research professor of psychology at Boston College who studies the role of play in child development.
  • Don't use physical activity as punishment: Ever had a coach who made players run laps for being late to practice, or do push-ups for a poor play? That's punishing through exercise, Sims said, and is always a bad idea.
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