Category Archives: Youth Sports

This is Why My Kids Play Sports

Today I watched my daughters team secure a spot in the State Tournament.  The sport is irrelevant. (It is hockey, but that truly doesn’t make a difference).  However they happen to finish at State is also completely irrelevant (to me at least, she may beg to differ).  This season has been incredible, but I am not talking at all about the win/loss column.  I have watched this group of fantastic young women do so many great things this season:

  • I have seen them encourage, support and motivate each other.
  • I have seen them listen to what the coaches tell them and strive to put into action what they have been told.
  • I have seen them high five and fist bump each other after a good play and pat the back of a teammate after a not-so-good play.
  • I have watched them include a player new to the sport, taking the ice for the first time, with open arms.
  • I have watched their genuine concern for teammates that have been injured.
  • I have seen them overcome with emotion and shed tears of pure joy after winning a hard fought tournament.
  • I have seen their disappointment at losing a hard fought tournament and vow to do better next time.
  • I have watched them disagree and fight, then work it out and carry on as a team.
  • Mostly, I have seen them laugh a lot and have fun.

They have learned teamwork, hard work and dedication to something beyond themselves.  Their bodies are conditioned, their minds are focused and their spirits couldn’t be higher. As a parent, I know these are things that will help them in so many other parts of their lives. This is why my kids play sports.

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Why Youth Hockey?

From Communications Director Denise Sheets at North Metro Youth Hockey:

Did you know that playing the sport of hockey can benefit your child mentally, physically and emotionally in ways that will last them the rest of their lives?

PHYSICALLY: Hockey is one of the best cardiovascular games you can play.  It also requires a high level of coordination- and developing and improving this will benefit your child in every single aspect of his/her life.

EMOTIONALLY: Hockey builds character.  Through the team sport of hockey children learn the value of working with others and experience a team spirit that encourages trust, responsibility and sportsmanship.  This extends into adulthood as teammates turn into co-workers, coaches into bosses and teams into the companies for which they work.  It helps your child learn to accept the highs and lows of life with poise and balance.  This translates in being better able to manage the stress of life!

MENTALLY:  Hockey is a fast sport.  Plays develop in seconds and momentum can shift in the blink of an eye.  Children who learn to operate in that sort of environment will improve the ability to make quick decisions and think on his/her feet.    Since hockey is a sport of strategy, it will help your child understand how one event can lead to or even create another- and this is an essential component to success in life!

Have you ever considered hockey as a sport for your child?  What if you and your child could find out if hockey is for you in a safe, non-threatening environment for FREE? North Metro Youth Hockey is hosting a Try Hockey For Free session on Saturday, March 2nd from 2:30-3:30 at the Brooklyn Park Community Center.  The address is 5600- 85th Avenue North, Brooklyn Park, MN.  Watch your child step on the ice and participate in the magic of hockey!!!  You will be so glad you did!  Please emailcommunications@nmyha.com with any questions or visit our website at www.nmyha.com

The Case For Active Kids

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Obesity rates for children are at an all-time high.  We’ve seen the statics.  They’re grim.  The next generation of kids is not expected to outlive their parents.  For the first time in 100 years, our children’s life expectancies are declining due to the increase in overweight.  (Olsshanksy S, Passaro D, Hershow R, Layden J, Carnes B., Brody J., et al (2005) A potential decline in life expectancy in the United States in the 21st Century.  New England Journal of Medicine, 352: 1138-1145.8).

We know that our children need to lead an active lifestyle to reap the benefits of good health. The benefits are many:  strong muscles and bones, weight control, decreased risk of developing type 2 diabetes, better sleep and improved self-esteem.

We know there is a link between children’s physical activity, fitness and play and other areas of development such as cognitive and behavior.  A recent study suggests that increased physical activity among students yields higher test scores and reduces disciplinary problems at school.  Schools with a higher percentage of fit students also earned better state performance ratings than those with a greater percentage of less fit students (Texas Education Agency, 2009.  Physically fit students more likely to do well in school, less likely to be disciplinary problems.  Austin, TX).

We also know that one hour of physical activity is recommended for school age children every day, yet it can be a challenge for kids to get that amount of daily activity.

Although there are more options for activity available today than ever before, the statistics continue to show drops in activity levels for all ages.  Fingers have been pointed at computers, video games, the fast food industry, less physical activity time at school, tough economics, a lack of active role models and busy, working parents.  These barriers can be overcome by parents that are committed the physical health and well-being of their children.  Parents can instill the love of an active lifestyle and by doing so establish healthy habits that their children will carry with them into adulthood.

Now it’s time to put this knowledge into a plan and put the plan into action. By answering some key questions the pieces should easily fall into place.

Why? Why Sports for Kids

What?  Pick the Right Sport for Your Child

Who?  Parents as Role Models

How?  Etiquette for Sports Parents, Boundaries for Sports Parent

When?  No More Excuses

Where?  Move On

The Case For Active Kids: Why Sports for Kids?

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The obesity epidemic is rampant.  More than half of the population is overweight, one in three is considered obese and it is projected to get worse.  The next generation of children is not expected to outlive their parents.  It is time for a change and that change needs to start now.

Participating in sports can have a healthy developmental impact on young children by:

  • Giving them something to do and a group to belong to that shares the same goals and interests.
  • Promoting cooperative play, teamwork, and good sportsmanship by focusing on the team as a whole as opposed to the egocentric view children often have.
  • Developing coordination by practicing both gross and fine motor skills, strategic thinking when coordinating plays and math skills to calculate scores and stats.
  • Building self-esteem through the practice, patience and persistence of mastering a skill and making significant achievements.
  • Developing discipline and leadership skills by setting goals and working hard to achieve them.
  • Helping children develop communication skills that will enable them to get along with others including peers, family members, teachers and coaches.
  • Instill a lifelong love of physical activity by establishing a correlation between sports and activity with fun.

Outcomes of Active Kids:

Physical activity is one of the most impactful and inexpensive ways to improve health, reduce obesity rates, and relieve stress and depression.

Make the experience positive to retain your athlete:

  • Pick a sport or activity that will appeal to the child.  Team sports can be a good fit for outgoing, more aggressive personalities whereas other children may prefer individual endeavors and working hard to beat a personal best.  If it isn’t enjoyable, try something else.
  • Set realistic goals and a plan for how those goals will be achieved.
  • Choose leagues, coaches and teams that align with the outcomes you desire.   For example: non-competitive and recreational leagues will focus more time on skill building and having fun, whereas traveling and competitive teams will tend to focus more on winning games.
  • Separate the parent’s dreams and expectations from the child’s dreams and expectations.

The Case For Active Kids: Pick the Right Sport For Your Child

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There are many more options available today for kids in sports than ever before, making it easy to find a sport or activity that will appeal to almost any one.  The key is to find a sport or activity that your child will enjoy and can be successful in.

A few things to consider when looking for an activity for your child:

The child’s temperament –   High energy kids will likely do better with sports that include fast moves with a lot of action. Think hockey, lacrosse and soccer.   More low-key children may enjoy a slower paced activity that involves a strategy or more attention to details.  Think baseball, wrestling, dance and gymnastics.   Introverts may be more drawn to individualized sports where they compete with themselves for a personal best instead of against others.  Think swimming, golf or martial arts. Non-competitive kids may not want to participate in team sports at all, but may enjoy a long bike ride on a trail with the family or a hike through the woods with the dog.  Whatever their fitness personality, all kids can be physically fit.  As parents, it is our responsibility to work with our child to find a sport or activity that they will enjoy and be successful with.

Give them a chance to shine- With the right encouragement a quiet, shy girl may light it up Mia Hamm style on the soccer field.  A nudge in the right direction may uncover some previously untapped competitive spirit.  In other words: let them try it, they might like it.

Let them choose what sounds appealing to them – Physical activity shouldn’t be optional, but how they choose to be active should be up to them.  Giving the child a choice in what they participate in will make them more invested in following through with the practice.  This can be a challenge for parents if they played a particular sport and the child doesn’t share their passion.  A family of hockey players may not know much about dancing, but it is important to show your support no matter what activity they choose.

Make sure they are having fun – This will be the key for them to stick with any sport or activity.  If the practices are a chore and the child complains or doesn’t want to go, it’s time to consider a change.  Ask why they aren’t enjoying themselves, what would make it more appealing to them and adjust accordingly.

Don’t be afraid to re-visit the past – Don’t exclude an activity due to a bad experience.  A child that hated swimming lessons as a toddler may later come to enjoy the individual nature of competitive swimming.   A change of environment, a different coaching strategy or having a friend on the team can make all the difference.

Set them up for success – If a child has never done something before, they will be apprehensive and self-conscious about trying something new.  No one wants to look incompetent or foolish in front of their peers.  So before starting a new sport or activity, talk with them about some of the basics of the game,  explain what they can expect to happen at practice, make sure they have the appropriate gear they need to play.  If they are still apprehensive,  make the coach aware of any concerns they may have before they start.

The bottom line –If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.   Don’t be discouraged if you try one or two sports and decide they aren’t a good fit.  With so many options available your child is sure to find something that is a good fit for them.

The Case For Active Kids: Be A Good Role Model

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As a parent, you have the ability to make or break your child’s sporting experience.   You are your child’s role model whether you like it or not, both good and bad.  It is crucial to set a good example because our children will emulate the behavior they see displayed.  Here are a few points to keep in mind:

Attitude – Attitude is everything.  Your attitude will reflect on your child’s attitude toward the game.  If you complain about the amount of (or lack of) practice, the coach’s choice of players or plays, and the referees call in the fourth quarter you are sending a negative message about the sport to your player.  There will always be things you don’t agree with, but your player may not see them as a problem until you bring them up, so don’t.

Handle Conflicts Appropriately – When a disagreement with a coach, parent or peer happens, show your child how to handle it appropriately.  This means calm discussions of facts, offering and accepting constructive feedback, formulating a plan of action and sometimes agreeing to disagree.  This will provide a powerful example for your player of how to handle their own disagreements when you aren’t there to fight the battle for them.  With that solid foundation in place, encourage your child to handle their own conflicts when they arise.

Fair play – Playing by the rules is essential in sports for the enjoyment and safety of all participants.  Support the coach, the team and your player by learning the rules of the game and helping your child apply them. When dealing with talent gaps on a team, keep in mind that young, developing players will greatly improve by playing with more experienced players.

Good sportsmanship – You’re going to win some and you’re going to lose some.  How you do both is a good sign of your character.  This will be witnessed and mirrored by your child.  Make the reflection one that you would like to see.

Take an active role – Show your child that you think this endeavor is worthwhile and that you are committed to their success by getting them to practice and games on time. Help out at practice when you can.  Even if you don’t like or don’t understand the sport your child has chosen to participate in, your presence and dedication says that you care about them and support their choices.

There is a Chinese Proverb:  Tiger father begets tiger son.  Our children will become what we teach them, both through what we say and more importantly through what we do.  Be mindful to always do the right thing.

The Case For Active Kids: Boundaries For Sports Parents

We all want our children to be successful in their chosen sport as well as in life.  We have their best interests at heart but sometimes in our exuberance to offer them every opportunity we lose focus of what they should really be learning.  Boundaries are often overlooked but essential for good life balance and a positive sports experience.

Don’t over schedule.  Make sure there is time available for your child’s academics, friends and other interests as well as free time to do whatever they choose.  Busyness is not a measuring stick for success.  In fact, it may be the biggest factor combating success by spreading precious time and energy too thin.

Too much of a good thing:  Don’t specialize too soon or feel that your child needs to participate in every camp, clinic or training opportunity to “keep up with the pack”.  This is actually counter-productive and can lead to over-use injuries and burn out at an early age.  Most sports will complement each other by training other aspects of the child’s body and mind.

Your child’s sport should not be the entire focus of their (or your) identity.  Too much early specialization in a sport can lead to a one-dimensional self-concept.  It also increases the pressure to perform well for building self-worth.

Be realistic. Only 30% of children who play youth sports will continue to play in high school. Of those high school athletes in the US, less than 5% will go on to become college athletes and less than 2% will receive full or partial scholarships.  Less than 1% of college athletes turn pro. (NCAA.org)  Adjust your expectations accordingly.

Set a budget and stick to it.  Sports can be expensive. Multiple kids in multiple sports will multiply those expenses. You know what state your finances are in and should plan according to what you can spend. Let your player know that it is a privilege that your household dollars are allocated for their well-being and that it is their responsibility to ensure that those dollars are well spent on the investment by them performing to the best of their ability.

Say “No” to your child.  (Gasp!) Handing your child an All Access pass to life may not be what they need to succeed.  Parents’ time and money are finite resources and should be treated as such.    If you can’t afford a camp or don’t want every night of the week scheduled by the hour, just say “no”. This also applies to saying “no” to other parents.  Don’t feel bullied into having your child to sign up for every training opportunity available or leagues that require an hour commute unless this is something you find value in.

Set your limits for time and money and stick to it.  If you have to stop and think about this for too long, then, yep – I’m talking to you.

The Case For Active Kids: No More Excuses

The biggest excuses for not being getting enough exercise are no money, no time or just not being athletic.  Let’s take a closer look at each –

Money:  Priority will be the key word for this discussion.  According to 24/7 Wall St. (Top 10 Things Americans Waste the Most Money On, Feb. 28, 2011) in the ten categories of unnecessary purchases, sports equipment came in 8th. Number one is food away from home, number 3 is television, radio and sound equipment.  Even pets and alcohol came in before health at #4 and #7, respectively.  At least sports equipment beat tobacco out (#9).  Another statistic states that Americans spent $25.3 billion on video games in 2009 (Today’s Gamer Survey by Newzoo and TNS).  54% of kids have a TV in their bedroom (Ibid). Priority.  “Sorry son, no money for a baseball glove, but would you like a new video game for the 42” flat screen in your room?”  If you are still wrestling with spending priorities, try thinking of it as buying your child a super-sized helping of self-esteem with a side order of confidence.  Always a good ROI.

Time: The average kid spends 4 hours a day watching TV.  Children spend more time watching television than in any other activity except sleep. (Houston and Wright, University of Kansas, “Television and Socialization of Young Children).  Conclusion:  your child has enough time.  Alright, but what about the parent that needs to get them to practice and games?  Consider: You have the same amount of time that everyone else on the planet has.  24 hours every day, no more, no less.  You can’t buy extra no matter how rich you are and no one can take it away from you no matter how poor you are.  How you choose to manage those hours is up to you.  Again, priority.  Do the things that fill your hours all take a higher priority than your health or your children’s health?  Admittedly, it may require some thought and planning, but it can be done.  Think in terms of calendars and carpools.  It’s time to trade the remote for a baseball bat and instead of watching the stars dance, go do a little jig of your own.

Non-Athletes:  Coordination is not necessarily a trait that you are either born with or don’t have at all. Coordination comes from your body and your brain working together to form connection in order for a task to be done effectively and efficiently.   In other words: coordination can be taught through practicing a particular skill over and over.  If a child is frustrated and wanting to do better in a sport, break down the process into small steps and practice, practice, practice. Kids won’t want to do what they aren’t good at, especially in front of their peers.  To help them gain confidence in their bodies’ ability to perform a sport you may want to consider sports conditioning training offered at a local gym or enlist the service of a personal trainer who is knowledgeable in child development.  Other options include a gym membership,  DVD’s or equipment they can use at home until they reach a comfort level for sports and have a the confidence to succeed.

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Move On

Move On is a website intended to encourage children to be active by utilizing the resources already available to them in their local community.  Move On is working to provide a complete listing of youth sports options available in every community so parents can choose the opportunity that offers the right level of skill development, competition and frequency to fit their family and their child’s needs. Move On includes a directory of facilities such as rinks, fields, pools, field houses and other community resources and also provides a listing of additional camps, clinics and other training opportunities to help athletes stay in shape and improve their skills in the off season. Our retail partners make it easy to get the gear needed to play, apparel to outfit active endeavors and products for additional training such as DVD’s and TRX.  Move On allows users to add additional opportunities that aren’t already listed in order to make the directory as accurate and complete as possible.  Move On is intended to be a resource for parents and children, providing education and inspiration while promoting physical activity through youth sports.

Click here to visit Move On.

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Things I Will Do When My Kids No Longer Play Sports

As parents of kids that play sports, we make sacrifices.  We sacrifice our time, our money and a few gray hairs so that our children can be healthy, well-rounded individuals.  We often times dream of reclaiming a bit of our life that is currently spent on all things sports related. This is my list:

Ten Things I will do when my kids no longer play sports:

  1. Enjoy a mid-winter vacation somewhere other than the tournament-city destination.  Duluth in January is nice, but…
  2. Own outer wear in non-team colors.
  3. Drive a vehicle that does not require 5 tons cargo space and gets more than 5 miles/gallon.
  4. Enjoy dinner out somewhere other than Buffalo Wild Wings.
  5. Have fingernails during try-out season.
  6. Probably never use the “sanitize” feature on my washer again.
  7. Know more about attractions in local cities other than the size of their Rec Center.
  8. Take Rinkfinder.com out of my “favorites” list.
  9. Read books other than The Baffled Parents Guide to Coaching Girls Lacrosse, 2011 Official Rule Book for Youth Soccer and The Talent Code.
  10. Miss meeting fantastic families that I may otherwise never have crossed paths with, if it weren’t for the common interest of our children’s athletic preferences.