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

li>Show grace in winning and losing: "In my generation, there was a great deal of emphasis on the proper way to conduct oneself, especially towards members of the other team -- after losing, congratulating them for a win, while remaining modest after winning," said Peter LaFreniere, a professor of developmental psychology at the University of Maine. "Judging from what I see on TV, we need more emphasis on this today. Being a good sport is a step toward being a good citizen. And the U.S. needs more civility in both."
  • Don't specialize too soon: According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, children shouldn't specialize in a single sport before adolescence, while the National Association for Sport and Physical Education recommends that children under age 15 participate in multiple sports and informal activities rather than specializing. This can help prevent overuse injuries, as well as help kids develop skills in more than one activity. That way, if a child doesn't make the high school soccer team, they can still play volleyball in the church league or basketball in a rec league.
  • Kids need time to play off the field: Research suggests that unstructured playtime -- when kids decide what they want to do and make up their own rules with their friends -- is crucial to helping children learn the social skills they need to become independent adults who can cooperate and get along with others. That's not something they learn when a coach, referee or parent is directing the activity, Gray said. "Children are meant to get physical activity by chasing each other around, having fun, playing monsters, not by running laps or climbing ropes where the whole class is watching them and someone is grading them and if they fail they feel ashamed never want to do it again," he said. "That sucks the fun out of physical endeavors." Make sure kids get opportunities for "free play."
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