Throughout the past few decades, more and more youth have enjoyed participation in sports through school or community based programs. Sports participation offers children the opportunity to develop physical skills, make friends, share common goals with others, learn fair play, help improve self-esteem, and most of all, have fun. A quality of a child’s experience in their participation in athletic programs serves as the foundation for their future participation in recreational or competitively elite athletics. Studies have indicated that as many as 50 - 70% of children will quit playing organized sports by the age of 13 and never play that sport again. This attrition is not due to lack of talent but to increased parental or coaching pressures which decrease the child’s level of enjoyment in the sport.

How can the parent or coach help lay a productive foundation for the youthful athlete?

  1. Focus on your child’s efforts and performance rather than the results or outcome of a competition. Compare your child against his or her own goals and standards, not against another child’s. Remember that children mature at varying stages and moderate or minimal personal achievement at a young age is not a predictor for later success.

  2. Help your child or young athlete set realistic goals. The goals should be clear, measurable, and attainable with a concerted effort. Encourage their development through the use of process goals - small goals which contribute to larger successes.

  3. Support your child through your attendance in interest in their efforts and model good emotional management and sportsmanship. Don’t be a distraction for your child - augment his or her experience with support for the coach, referees, and the rules of the game.

  4. Allow your child the opportunity to engage in a variety of sport activities. Children who concentrate on just one sport for long hours can be susceptible to overuse injuries and/or emotional burnout.

  5. Listen to your child about his or her athletic experience. Help them cope with individual or team setbacks.

A child’s athletic involvement can offer him or her opportunities for learning and development. Areas such as individual goal setting, team goal setting ( a shared purpose), team and relationship building, self-discipline, commitment, coping with setbacks, and the enjoyment of competition can provide learning experiences and lessons transferable to life.

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Chris Michaels, Ph.D.
Licensed Psychologist
P. 973.984.7510
66 Maple Avenue
Morristown, NJ 07960

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Chris Michaels Ph.D.
Chris Michaels Ph.D.

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