My son Nolan just started a new sport; Flag Football. He had his first game over the weekend. Well, his first two games. The set up is 11AM practice and then game one at 11:40AM and game two at 12:20PM. Nolan got his first touchdown, which was great. He was super excited. Let me back up a bit; my initial response to yet another time-consuming activity was to complain. I was excited, but a little irritated by the idea of another three-hour weekly commitment. After the first play of game one, everything changed. I love the competition; the sports fever began to boil my blood and run through my veins and it was on. Let’s go all the way, Flag Football Super Bowl – Nolan the MVP!

Whoa! I better slow down or I will never get to the point. So, I want to hit on two topics here: kids’ competitive sports & and over-extending our kids. In this post I will discuss the previous issue and post a follow up for the latter. In my original post I discussed the extremes of our attitudes towards kids’ sports. There are the hard-core, ultra-competitive parents and coaches, and then there is the side that does not believe in winning or losing.  Yes, I fall in the competitive category, but believe the way we, as parents and coaches, approach how we participate in and coach the sports makes all the difference. Do I want Nolan to be a superstar athlete? Of course I do. What parent wouldn’t? What is more important to me, however,  is that he enjoys what he is doing and learns the lessons that team sports offer: teamwork, camaraderie, work ethic, fitness and so on. There are so many valuable lessons kids can learn from sports but a few bad experiences can change it all and discourage kids. That includes parents and coaches that yell and belittle the kids. It is not just the words we use, but our tone can be all that a child hears. I coach Nolan’s soccer team and offered to help the football coach out. I don’t ever want to feel responsible for a child’s bad experience that ends his or her sports enthusiasm.

This is at the top of my mind because during one of Nolan’s football games, there was this crazy coach. He yelled at the kids, the ref, and his assistant coach. These are seven and eight year old boys, some playing football for the very first time. Several of the kids on our team made comments that they do not like mean coaches that yell all the time. What are they playing for? The Heisman Trophy/ Super Bowl Ring? I get it; I am very competitive but I think sometimes parents and coaches, from both extremes, need to take a step back and really think about what we are teaching our kids.

As a coach and parent, teaching the kids how to play is the easy part. My job is to try and teach each kid about sportsmanship, how to win & lose, how to develop team spirit and work together, just to name a few. At this age, the kids are at different level. They are developing skills, agility, and personal technique, and some are still trying to figure out how turn their second left foot into a right one. Everyone develops at a different rate and I need to teach the team to encourage every individual, regardless of his skill level. One of the hardest ideas to instill is that we win and lose as a team; you know the old adage, “ there is no ‘I’ in team.” Everyone wants to be a star and score but how will anyone score if no one passes the ball? These lessons help kids develop as players, teammates, and human beings. They help prepare them for life. I understand that certain things change with age. Some things may not be appropriate for one age bracket but acceptable for an older group. I am pretty confident, however, that excessive yelling and belittling comments are not conducive to any important lesson. When coached and encouraged properly, kids learn to work together as a team and, I believe, become stronger people on and off the field.

Any thoughts or opinions? I would love to hear them.

Go Team!

– Kevin Williams
VP & Dad