With all the world-class sports taking place these days- from $100 million boxing matches and bank shot buzzer-beaters to amazing goals on the pitch and back-handed chips into the green- it’s hard not to wonder how great it would be if your own 8-year old were playing an actual sport instead of tapping the glass of your iPad.
This post won’t be about the benefit of sports to kids because there already is a lot of literature on that subject. As the title indicates, I will be sharing some tips with parents on how to get kids interested (and hopefully hooked) in sports- tips that are based on my experience working closely with both young athletes and parents.
1. Take them out to the ballgame. Exposure is probably the biggest factor in getting kids into sports. We can talk all we want about sports to our kids, but unless we literally expose them to sports – meaning, expose them to the multi-sensory experience of sports (all your senses!), then all you’ll get are blank looks. We don’t have to be athletes (or weekend warriors), much less play a sport well, for as long as they see our genuine sporting interest coupled with the actual experience of being in a sporting event. I’m not even talking about big-time sporting events. Your barangay’s summer basketball tournament, 3K fun runs, or those weekend badminton matches in the subdivision clubhouse will do.
But, if we are athletes ourselves (or if we play a sport regularly), then we might as well…
2. … take them out to OUR ballgame. Whether we like it or not, our children idolize us by default. Seeing their moms and dads actively playing (hopefully, within the rules and observing proper conduct) helps lower whatever inhibitions they may have about trying something new. Because of this, their entry into the sports world becomes automatic and natural.
3. Tell sports stories. Every kid loves a good story, and sports is rife with exciting stories that are sure to catch our kids’ attention. We can share stories on individuals – like how Michael Jordan and Bugs Bunny were once teammates, or how Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy went mano-a-mano with hitting (and making) crazy shots. We can share stories on underdogs winning it all, superstar athletes showing off other talents, and gut-wrenching, heartwarming tales already immortalized on the silver screen. Sports is life, and we are so lucky to have all these incredible moments defined and played out before us in various forms.
4. Let them decide. Or in other words, don’t force the issue. I have witnessed many instances in which parents pressure and force their kids to play a sport, and believe me, not only is it a terrible sight, it’s also a surefire blueprint toward resentment and pain down the road for the child. In my experience counseling high school students, I can tell you that nothing good ever comes out of forcing your children to do something they don’t want to do. And things get drastic if we start forcing our own sports dreams and frustrations on them, hoping they’ll be able to play out what we couldn’t accomplish when we had the opportunity. We can prepare the environment in which their interest in sports can be stoked. And hope. And pray. But ultimately, it will still be their step to take. It’s as simple as that.
Getting kids into sports is a dream for most parents, and most of the time, it’s easy to accomplish simply because sports = play = fun = kids. When kids see a ball, or a field, or other kids running around, their instinct is to join in on the fun and start playing right away. But in case this doesn’t happen to your own child, then I hope my tips above will help.
Here’s to a fun sporting life for everyone!
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