Practicing sports skills with your child can be a great way to become closer and learn more about your youngster. Whether it is right or wrong, children are judged by their peers on their playground ability, and status follows from there. The more athletic kids are given higher status than the kids who get 100% on their math quiz. Practicing sports skills together will help your child strengthen their social acceptance in their world away from you.
Being a former elementary PE teacher, high school coach and counselor, and living across the street from a playground has allowed me to observe a tremendous amount of parent/child interaction as it connects to sports skills. In some instances, I was truly in awe of the way a parent could impart solid information, make patient corrections, and provide lasting encouragement. In others, though, I felt badly for the young ballplayer as they were picked on, criticized, and mocked by a parent’s misguided efforts to help them improve.
Youth sports are not life and death…it just sometimes seems that way
If your youngster has shown an interest in athletics and wants you to help them practice to improve their skills, count yourself fortunate. It means they trust you to show them the way…and, on an unconscious level, they trust you not to bust up their spirit.
Sports are far different than what goes on in the classroom. If your child gets a bad grade on a spelling test, they can just turn their paper over and nobody will see. However, on the playing field, they are completely exposed. If they make an error, drop a ball, let their man run free…everybody sees what happened. Sports is probably the only venue where you can go from a Hero to a Zero…and back again, in the blink of an eye.
Keep this in mind as you help your child.
Start where they want to start
If your youngster just wants to play catch, or have you shoot baskets with them, or just kick the soccer ball back and forth every day…that is their comfort zone. That is where they want to start. Please do not be in a hurry to jump to more advanced skills. Let them lead these initial sessions. They are not looking for getting better right now, they are looking for acceptance…and having fun with the person they love the most. Young hearts are fragile, don’t trample on them.
Once you get in a routine, and can see them progressing, then you can suggest practicing combination movements and more challenging skills.
Catch them doing something right
Sports skills are incredibly complex. Some children can intuitively negotiate the subtleties in a nano-second…others require more repetition. As much as you want them to instantly improve, it normally does not happen that way. Young players are full of flaws, but they DO NOT improve through impatience, continual criticism, or mocking. All that does is push them away from YOU.
The best thing you can do, as they work to put it all together, is to find something to compliment them on throughout your session together. Be specific and sincere. Children can see through false praise. There are many things during your practice with them that can be applauded. Correct footwork, hand position, attitude, and effort are just a few areas that easily come to mind.
Praise and encouragement build the bond that makes you the foremost coach/teacher in your youngster’s eyes when they are just getting started in athletics.
Watch more skilled athletes with a purpose
One thing that will help your child gain perspective on a specialized skill is to have them pay close attention to the actions of players with a higher skill level. Together, you can go down to a city park and watch pick-up games, watch athletes in a league several steps above your child’s, or even professionals on TV…but teach your youngster to do it with a purpose. It is easy to mindlessly lose yourself in the flow of a competition, but if you both go there to look for a specific application of one or two skills that your child may be struggling with, it can help them make some incredible jumps in improvement.
Your young son or daughter is going to be your child a lot longer than they will ever be a ballplayer. It will be for life. The trust you build, the efforts you praise, and the fun you incorporate in practicing sports skills with them will build bonds that run deeper than any others they will make. If you are hesitant about your own skill level, be upfront with your child. You can always purchase a video, or talk with a knowledgeable school/community coach about basic drills you both can practice. The important thing is that you are building quality time together as your child improves.
Perhaps the finest basketball skills DVD set I have ever seen for youth players that have at least a year of experience behind them is Homework Basketball by the late Pete Maravich. In this set of 4 DVDs, he covers ball-handling, dribbling, passing, and shooting. Pete thoroughly demonstrates all of the basic fundamentals, but he goes several steps farther by showing the exact personal drills he used (starting at age 10) to become a three-time All American at LSU and be one of the youngest members ever elected to the NBA Hall of Fame. You can learn more about this basketball instruction DVD [http://www.BasketballInstructionDVD.com] by going to this site.
Cade Beach also creates fitness, fat loss, and weight training articles for his site LifeWithoutFat.com.
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