Candrea on Coaching The Value of Sport

April 27, 2016, 2:09 p.m. (ET)

I cannot think of my life without having the opportunities to participate in sport and draw all the valuable lessons that have helped shape the person I have become today.  As a kid growing up in the south, it was an everyday affair to meet everyone down at the end of our block and play from the early hours of the day to sundown every imaginable sport.  From stick ball, whiffle ball, pickle, emulating our favorite major league players, this was our way to spend our energy in a positive way and learn some of the greatest lesson for later in life.

Although, times have changed and today you do not see the pick-up games being played at the neighborhood parks. These have been replaced with organized youth sports that parents are spending exuberant money to develop their son or daughter’s athletic skills.  What exactly are we spending our money on and what are we going to get in return?  Some parents look at these as investments in their kid’s college careers or they believe they will have a professional career in sport.  As parents, we should be looking at the true value of sport and what to expect from it given our sons or daughters have a good experience.

Sport will teach children vital life skills such as discipline, motivation, commitment and teamwork.  These are skills that will help them not only be a great teammate while participating in sport; they will help shape them as adults.  I have always felt that my main job as a college coach is to prepare my players for life after softball.  Yes, there are some sport experiences that can end in a professional career, but truthfully the percentages are extremely low.  They all will have to experience life after sport so keeping the sport experience in perspective is very important.  Our job is to teach kids how to be successful in everyday life.  Sport is real because it teaches you that dealing with failure is learning to succeed!

As parents and coaches, we must have some guidelines for the sport experience that will give us the best chance for a successful experience.  It may begin by finding the right sport experience for your child.  At an early age, we must let them explore and try different sports until they find one they enjoy and have a passion to play and work at it.  Finding the right team and a supportive coach will be another challenge along with you becoming comfortable watching from the sidelines without making your kid anxious.  Sports are such a big deal that sometimes parents can go too far.  Don’t overdo it!  Too much can make it feel like a job rather than a fun activity.  Give your child a say.  For instance, if your daughter hates soccer, or isn’t good at it, she could feel like a failure and may resist trying other sports.

One of the real values of sport is learning what it means to make a commitment.  Before signing your child up for a sport, make sure they are prepared to make a commitment to finish what they start.  Try to find a sports program that fits your child’s personality and skill set.  Are you looking for an experience where everybody plays in games or participates in competitions regardless of ability? Or do only the best athletes play?  Observe a practice with your child, so you will get a sense of the team’s culture.  See the big picture – a child should play a sport to develop their social, emotional, and physical development.  The main concern when dealing with youth in sport is burnout. Here are some warning signs to watch for:

  • She doesn’t talk about the sport anymore.
  • She makes excuses to skip practice.
  • She shows no excitement before competition.
  • She seems tired all the time and isn’t sleeping well.
  • She shows signs of depression – loss of appetite, nausea, and headaches.
  • She avoids team activities away from the field.

Allow your child to unlock its own gift and talent on and off the field. If you allow their talent to naturally flow and allow them to naturally grow, your child will be happier and healthier.  

Until next time,

Coach Candrea

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