The first few weeks that kids spend playing a new sport often determines how long they will continue. If the first few weeks are fun, then kids will stay with it. If not, kids will quit and find other ways to spend their time. Parents can help get their kids off to a good start by following these simple tips:
- Get Instruction in Advance - Part of the fun that kids derive from sports comes from the confidence they gain by performing at a level comparable or above that of their friends. A few private lessons before the first practice from a knowledgeable friend or instructor can help kids start with confidence. While parents can sometimes fill this role, kids often listen better to another adult. If possible, parents should get instruction for their child from someone else and then be ready to help out afterwards with additional practice.
- Attend the First Practices and Games - Parents can show their support for new activities by taking time to attend the first team events. These events provide parents a good chance to watch their kids learning new skills and interacting with friends. If kids don't know many of the other kids and are shy, parents should consider helping their kids get acquainted with the other players.
- Be Generous with Praise and Encouragement - It is unlikely that the first time kids participate in a new sport that they will excel. Parents may have to be creative in their compliments, but parental praise is an important part of process. Praising a child's effort, listening, participation and outgoing actions are just as valid as praising a child's skill.
- Don't Give Criticism or Correction - It will be tempting for parents to point out areas of improvement for their child. Especially during the first few weeks, this should be avoided to the extreme. Parents should let the coach work with their child to improve skills. There is plenty of time to fix skill problems if kids enjoy playing.
- Provide Extra Time Before and After Practices - One of the biggest benefits for kids playing sports is the opportunity to spend more time with friends. Arriving immediately before and leaving right after a practice or game don't give kids time to enjoy this benefit. Parents should be prepared to arrive early and then stay late in order to give their kids the chance for more socialization.
Getting kids started on the right foot in sports is not difficult but may require some patience. At any age, there is always plenty of time for kids to build skills. But, there may not always be plenty of time to build enjoyment. The right parental actions during the critical first few weeks of a new sport can give kids and parents years of great memories.