Boys and girls are different – well, that’s not news. But have you stopped to think about how boys and girls are different when it comes to sports. They have different attitudes about sports and they often feel differently about their physical development.
Let’s start with the attitudes. Boys really focus on their skills – how far they can throw a football, how hard they can hit a baseball, or how fast they can run. The boys work at constantly improving their skills to be a better player. Girls are people oriented. They want to be on the same team with their best friends. And girls don’t like being compared to others; they don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings.
Boys are proud of their physical development. My grandsons are constantly showing me how tall they are, how big their muscles are, and how much they weigh. I notice the granddaugthers are a bit more reserved about their developing bodies. The recent Olympics gave girls an opportunity to see physically fit women play sports with pride. That is a great model for girls and young women.
Data about successful women who participated in sports indicates they learned how to be authoritative, work on teams, set individual and team goals, and to be mentally tough.
What differences do you notice between boys and girls when it comes to sports?
When should children begin organized sports?
Good question! Sometimes parents feel pressured to get their children into organized sports at a very young age.
I remember when my 5 year old daughter played soccer for the first time. I wanted it to be fun and something she enjoyed. It was the 4-5 year old age group, and after a couple of wildly amusing practices they had their first game. In the middle of the game she actually kicked the ball for the first time and stopped midfield, looked over at me and gave me the biggest grin and two thumbs up. She was so proud. At that moment another child ran past her and yelled “GET YOUR HEAD IN THE GAME!”
Yep, my mouth hung open for a moment just like yours did. I can tell you that I literally saw her deflate before my very eyes. Be watchful and wary about when and where you send your children to experience their sport for the first time. Protect their egos and their developing brains.
Here’s a little info on what child development says young children can ‘handle’.
At the preschool age (3, 4, 5 years old) – children are developing a sense of independence and decision making. They are typically too young for a structured formal organized sport. Their brain development hasn’t yet mastered the ability to ‘lose gracefully’ and they can easily bored and distracted. Not to mention disruptive and frustrated. If we push them to ‘pay attention’ and ‘follow the rules’ we may actually be turning them ‘off’ to the sport in the future. Preschoolers need fun and light hearted experiences with lots of room for goofiness when it comes to sports.
How might you have handled my situation above?? Are there times that you have had similar experiences?
We’ve all been there – cheering at the game and having fun watching the kids play. Then somewhere out of the stands comes that loud voice yelling, “What are you thinking, take him out,” or “Ref, how could you miss that call?” Then the tirade continues for the entire game alternately aimed at the coach, kids, and referees or umpires. Embarrassing – yes. Helpful to anyone – no.
I’m going to tackle (ok, its football season) the sensitive topic of adults and sportsmanship. It’s easier and safer to focus on the kids. But the truth is that adults can become overly involved. I am including all adults, not just parents, in this discussion. There’s no age limit, gender, or relationship that precludes an adult from “losing it” at a sporting event.
So what’s an overly involved parent or adult? Here are some questions to ask yourself.
- Do I get in arguments at my child’s sporting event?
- Do I object to calls and possibly cuss at the referees or umpires?
- Do I insist my child go to practice or play in a game even if she is sick or hurt?
- Do I complain to the coach about the amount of my child’s playing time?
- Do I insist my child is much better than others on the team?
- Do I tell or show my child how to play dirty?
- Do I show more approval when my child plays well?
Ok, it’s gut check time. Did any of these questions make you squirm just a little? Did some of them hit close to home? We’re not perfect and it’s easy to get caught up in an intense game.
But remember, as a parent you are ALWAYS a role model for your child. Sports help character development and what are you teaching your child when you lose control of your emotions and actions. What do you do to keep calm at your child’s games?
As I thought about children and sports this month I want to share something I overheard.
A young child was working on a new physically challenging skill. He was working and working and working so very hard. Finally SUCCESS!!! HE DID IT! He was so proud I swear he grew 4 inches right in front of my eyes! “I did it I tried my best and I did it!”
The older sibling overheard the exclamations of joy and in a grown up voice replied “It’s never our BEST, there is always room for improvement”.
SILENCE…….. DEFLATION……… end of working on skill.
Isn’t there a time when we really have done it ‘good enough’ to celebrate? Can’t we just stop and celebrate the moment and say “We did our best and we succeeded!” As we continue with children and sports this month, think about really allowing your child to celebrate the moment of their own personal success.
We ALL have to start somewhere and not all of us are going to be Olympians. Besides – without those of us having OUR OWN personal best, their would never be Olympians who we encouraged to be their best.
How have you celebrated personal bests with your child?
You just picked your kid up from volleyball practice or your teen is home from an early morning football scrimmage. With the beginning of a new school year just around the corner, practice for fall sports is already in full swing.
You’re curious about how things are going but Cassie is texting a friend or Jonathon is ready for a shower and nap. What’s a parent to do? How can you be supportive but not overly involved?
Most kids need a little down time after a practice or game. Then over a snack or meal, you can initate a conversation. There’s a great question I found useful with my daughters and I now use with the grandkids.
“What did you work on today?” This question requires more than a “yes, no, or okay.” Let’s say Cassie answers with, “We worked on serving the ball.” Then you can follow up with, “Are you serving better than last year?” And even, “Do you want to practice some after supper? I should be pretty good at serving.”
Encouraging – helpful – appropriate. What great adjectives to describe a sports mom or dad.
What have you found that’s a good conversation starter with your child when it comes to sports practices and games?
Play sports for fun or play to win? When the focus is on fun, children are more likely to continue participating in sports and to develop an active lifestyle. But when parents and coaches push winning as more important, children tend to quit participating in sports.
This month we will talk about how to be a positive sports parent. Listen below to a short podcast on what research says now about Children and Sports.
Click here for additional information on Positive Sports Parenting
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