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Transitioning to Competitive Play: How to Help Your Child

Sports are supposed to be fun. Right? That’s how they started out. Back when your child was in preschool or kindergarten those pint-sized athletic teams were all about getting some physical activity and having a good time. No one kept score, from the sidelines no one was screaming, “How could you miss that shot?” and no one was competing to be the best in the state. As your child grew and began getting more serious about sports, they wanted to transition into truly competitive play. How can you help your child make the move from “just for fun” to a more competitive-based type of play?

Time Commitment and Being Selective

It’s common for young children to try out different sports. Your child may have played soccer, softball, tennis, and basketball. And, that was just in one year. When it comes to moving from recreational to competitive play, your child needs to narrow down their focus. Yes, some kids do excel at a few sports. It’s not unheard of for a teen to play for the high school football team in the fall and then hit the wrestling mats in the winter. But, narrowing down the selection certainly makes it easier to focus.

When it comes to selecting a sport, your child needs to be aware of the time commitment. If they narrow down their focus to soccer and track, they might not have the time to pull double-duty during the same sporting season. Discuss which sport your child really wants to focus on and why. After that, take a look at the time commitment and make sure that there are no major conflicts. If there are considerable conflicts, take a look at what your child can shift around or juggle. In the event that nothing budges, ask your child to consider picking just one sport to really, truly focus on.

Support School

Focusing on competitive play often leaves little time for school work. Of course your child is still going to school during the day. But, they may not have as much time for after-school homework and they may also need to miss some school days (or partial days) for games, matches, tournaments and meets.

Help your child to create a steady schedule that incorporates both school work and practice times. Put a pen to paper (or go on your computer and create a spreadsheet) and write out the details. This should include blocks of practice/training time, study times, and game times. The rigor and regimen of athletic training translates into study time for many student-athletes. That means sports and school can work hand in hand to help keep your child on track and on schedule.

It’s possible that your child will be so excited to start real competitive play that they put schoolwork on the back burner. It’s understandable that the new, more in-depth, athletic endeavor is exciting. For your child, it’s much more interesting than algebra and English literature. But, you need to explain that school can’t slide. Set rules, making it clear that if the sport negatively affects your child’s grades, they’ll need to take a break.

New Rules

Back when sports were purely recreational your child could miss a practice (or a game) and it wasn’t really a big deal. Now that they’re on the travel team, made the school JV/Varsity squad or are on some other competitive team, things are different.

Participating in competitive sports (whether it’s as an individual or as part of a team) requires dedication, time, and commitment. Skipping out on practice to hang out with friends is not okay. Sit your child down and discuss what the team’s, coach’s or league’s rules are. For example, your child’s basketball coach has a rule that any participant who misses three practices (unless they’re pre-excused) is automatically out. Your athlete needs to understand that the coach means business and that they will enforce this rule.

Taking the next step to competitive play is a big deal. It shows that your child is focused and committed to the sport. The transition from a recreational sport to something more serious isn’t always easy. Even though it takes work, with your help and a little time, your child will succeed!

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5 Reasons To Keep Playing Sports

It’s quite common for lifelong sports fanatics to suddenly question whether there’s any point in playing team sports anymore. Here are five reasons why you absolutely should keep at it.

As life gets busier, academic demands increase and you gain more freedom to spend time with your friends, it’s only natural that you reassess how you manage your time. There are only so many hours in the day and you need to make sure you’re using yours effectively to get the most out of life. Many teenagers find themselves under a lot of pressure from school, friends, family and even work commitments. How can you do all of the things you need to do, without missing out on any of the things you want to do?

Sadly, many teenagers choose to give up the sports they have been involved with for years as a way of freeing up some extra time. Of those, many later regret the decision. So, if you’re currently wondering how you can free up more time, here are five reasons why quitting your sports team isn’t the answer:

1. It’s Good for Your Health

Your involvement with team sports is one of the things keeping you healthy. The time spent training each week, not to mention the hours spent running around on the field, are what help your body to stay in shape. You’re exercising whilst doing something you love, you’d have to be crazy to give that up. Even if you drop out of the team, you’ll need to replace the activity with other exercise to make sure you stay healthy, so it may not even buy you much in the way of free time. Your health is important and team sports are a great way to stay in shape.

2. It’s Not All About Your Future Employment

Many young people decide to give up playing sports when they realize they’re not going to make a career out of it. If it’s not going to be how you make a living, it can suddenly seem like a waste of time. But playing sports isn’t just a career opportunity, it can also be a lifelong hobby that you can enjoy with friends and family. You don’t need to quit the team just because you’re not planning on playing soccer full-time. It’s perfectly ok to play for fun – in fact, what better reason could there be to play a game other than that you love it?

3. It’ll Be Good for Your Resume

You might not be planning to take up basketball as a profession, but that doesn’t mean it’s not going to help you out in your professional life. Playing team sports teaches players a lot of valuable skills and employers know that. When they see that you play regularly in a league, potential employers assume you’re a team player, a fast thinker and somebody who isn’t afraid to work hard. Having that on your resume could make all the difference between getting an interview and never hearing back. Isn’t it worth it for that alone?

4. It’s Fun

You know how much you’ve always loved sports? The adrenaline, the team spirit and the celebration when you score – it’s undeniable, sports are fun. Playing on a team allows you to enjoy all of these positives whilst having fun. Okay, not every game is fun. Some games you’ll twist your ankle, miss the goal or go home empty-handed. But even on those days, you’ll have had fun, let off steam and work as part of a team. You don’t need to give up this slice of fun to juggle your school work and social life.

5. Your Teammates Are Your People

The great thing about playing sports is that you have a ready-made group of friends for life. Your teammates are your people. They know you and support you. Of course, you can stay friends with these people when you leave the team, but it will never be quite the same.

 

 

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For Athletes Time is Just a Number

Your parents are worried your increased interest in athletic pursuits will have a negative effect on your grades. You make the promise nothing like that will ever happen, but the nightly two-hour practices are eating into your homework time. What can you do to keep the promise to your parents?

You aren’t alone in this situation. The leap from childhood to the teenage years – includes a natural increase in the amount of homework you stash in your book bag. Around the same time in your life, you decide to ‘step up your game’ by trying out for stronger and more competitive athletic teams. You want to make the jump from the ‘recreational’ athlete to that of performing in the more competitive ‘select’ or ‘travel’ arena.

The twice-a-week recreational practice and once-a-week game schedule has now become a week filled with four practice days and two game days – or even a complete weekend of multiple tournament games. It’s tough to scrounge up enough time to finish your schoolwork, and when you do sit down and open a text book you find yourself so exhausted you can’t even concentrate.

Professional basketball coach Pat Riley once commented, “There are only two options regarding commitment. You’re either in or you’re out. There’s no such thing as life in-between.” This is exactly true of your life right now. This is where you must make a commitment to following some simple rules of time management. You have already decided you want to better yourself as an athlete by increasing your activity in a sport, but you cannot take this time from your study time.

There will always be some consequence to every decision you make, that’s why it’s important to think about them carefully. You know you have to get started on researching a social studies report, but the report isn’t due until next week. So, you log into the GroupMe chat set up with your friends. A quick ‘check-in’ results in eating up 45 minutes. Those minutes are lost. You cannot get them back. Using them to start your research would definitely lower the stress level affecting your school performance next week. By making such a simple adjustment, you have initiated a time management strategy. The mature decision not only helps you keep a promise to your parents, but it also lets you keep the even bigger promise to yourself. Besides, if you are productive you may also get those 5 minutes of chatting you promised yourself, but as a reward!

Successful coaches are the ones to make every minute of practice time matter. The same can be said of successful student-athletes. Develop a weekly and daily ‘quick assessment’ of all the school work you are facing. For example, you have a social studies report but still have 10 days before it is due. If this week is light on math and science homework, set up some extra time to start your project. If you let “light” homework weeks be too relaxed you will end up with all-nighter the next week. Take advantage of the natural balance in your homework and be as productive as you can.

There may be times when it may just seem impossible for you to fit everything into your life. If it comes down to a decision between your school work and athletics, there really isn’t a decision to make. Education is priority one. Let your coach know of your situation as soon as possible. Some coaches may tell you skipping practice will result in not starting or not playing the next game. The coach may not want to make such a harsh decision but he also must consider your teammates who are not missing a practice, particularly if there is a set of team rules, which cannot be ignored. However, most coaches are very understanding and if they see you are a hardworking student-athlete they will give you a chance to make it up to the team.

What’s Too Much When it Comes to Scheduling Sports?

640Monday is soccer practice, Tuesday is swim team, Wednesday and Thursday are both gymnastics days and Friday is karate. Then comes the weekend. There’s a soccer game on Saturday at 8 a.m., followed by a swim meet start-time and a belt promotion test for karate both at noon. Your child has to miss his belt promotion because it conflicts with the out-of-your-area aqua club event. Whew! Sounds tiring, right? Four different sports at one time – is this too much? Knowing how much is too much when it comes to your child’s athletic activities is key to maintaining balance. It also allows for young athletes to have fun practicing a sport, instead of having crammed schedules and no free time .

The Overscheduling Dilemma

The thought of your child not having an after-school activity makes you shiver. If he’s not at baseball, basketball or skating, he’s probably going to be sitting in front of the TV or laptop zoning out. While this is a popular picture of the unstructured child, it isn’t necessarily true. Kids need some time that isn’t scheduled, warns the American Academy of Pediatrics. This means that packing every second of your child’s out-of-school time with sports, sports and more sports can be very overwhelming and isn’t always healthy.

Structured vs. Unstructured Activities

You may not want to overwhelm your child with extracurricular activities but you also fear excess free time. That’s why it’s important to find a balance. Structured activities, such as soccer practice or ice skating lessons do much more than just take up time, they provide a opportunity to improve motor skills, stay healthy, learn and have social interactions with peers. That said, unstructured activities don’t equal laziness or the lack of learning. Unstructured activities allow your child to think creatively and learn to know him or herself. For example, instead of having a coach coax your child into drills, they can create their own outdoor movement play game and bring on their own brand of motivation!

The Magic Number

The truth is – there is no magic number of sports activities that your child should do. Whether you’ve scheduled too much, too little or the ‘just right’ amount of athletics depends on several factors. These include:

  • Younger children (such as preschoolers and kids in elementary school) may not have the ability to focus on several different sports at one time. Throwing soccer, t-ball, gymnastics, ice-skating, basketball and tennis at a young child all at once may confuse them. Let your young child focus on one sport per season. Older kids and teens may also want to engage in fewer sports activities. This is because they need to spend more time to seriously focus on the area in which they excel.
  • You want to expose your children to all of the possibilities that the sports’ world has to offer. But, does that mean they have to try absolutely everything? Expose your children to a variety of activities – within reason. If your child truly doesn’t want to play a sport, seems distressed or refuses to go to practice, don’t push too much. There’s no medal for playing each and every sport that your community leagues offer. Instead, pay attention to the activity for which he express the most interest and make it a priority.
  • Older kids need more time for school work. If your child has two hours of homework each night, a five-day per week sporting schedule may create a situation in which their grades suffer. Keeping a balance between curricular and extracurricular activities is important in achieving success for student athletes.

Remember, balance is a must-have factor. Your child shouldn’t feel like he or she is on a never-ending merry go-round of sports activities, but also shouldn’t feel like he or she has absolutely nothing to do. Avoid overscheduling and take your children’s ages and interests into consideration before deciding how many sports they should play. In the end, sports should be exciting, engaging and educational for children. Being in balance allows this to happen without pushing your child or making athletic activities feel like chores.