Spring is near and many children will join a sports team this spring. Whether your child has already started sports or will join his or her first sports league real soon, we have a great opportunity to use this avenue to bring them some important lessons they can learn. If you seize this perfect platform of a team, you can teach the concept of positive attitude, responsibility and teamwork.
Teaching Positive Attitude
My son is 5 and he has no siblings close in age, but does attend Kindergarten. He tends to be a bit bossy as the only child and can put on a pout show like no other when he loses. He is registered for baseball this spring for the first time. Because I anticipate these behaviors, I have talked to him about what a team is. It sounds simple, but help your child form those mental images that will help them overcome the nervousness of that first day at practice.
Tell him or her what their sport or event is all about-the dynamics. How many players make up a Baseball or soccer team. Draw or pull up a photo of what a field looks like and teach them the positions. Explain in advance that at their age, they will NOT play a particular position. Only older kids get to do that! Right now they need to learn every position and understand the rules of the game. Many little leagues do not keep a score. Explain that bigger kids get scores and little kids are lucky because they get to go have fun and no one ever loses! If your team does keep a score, that is OK. Tell them that they need to lose some games sometimes so they know what they need to practice on the most. Every team loses a couple games every season, even Super Bowl and World Series champions will lose a game or two!
Explain to them that every athlete, even major league players have good days and bad days. It is OK if they have days that they don’t make good catches or hits. Everyone has their turn having those kind of days and we expect that and will not be disappointed. It is important that we let our kids know that there is nothing they can do on that field that will disappoint us unless it is bad attitude. Congratulate them on a good play, but do NOT reward them! This only sends the message that making good plays is the result we want from them. If you like rewards, then set up a ritual for after EVERY game. Good or bad day, celebrate good attitudes not abilities!
Anticipate your child’s behaviors, pre-talk to them about your expectations with their attitude. Help them have a concept of the game-no matter what sport or team it may be. Promise them you are watching their attitude, not their abilities and always remind them to have fun!
Suddenly we have a new wardrobe and equipment we need to have ready on practice and game days! This is the perfect opportunity to teach responsibility. The first step is being organized ourselves. We are the keepers of the schedule, the operators of the washing machine and the drivers to their events! Our children are the keepers of their stuff, transporters to the wash and the hands that take their equipment to and from the car and centers or fields! Make this clear up front.
As you prepare for your child’s first day of practice, bring out the responsibility chart! Talk about their roles and make sure they understand. This will prevent you from dictating in a panic at the last minute and creating stress in the moment. If your child is very young, they can take clothes off ASAP and carry them to you to wash. After they are washed, they can bring them to their room ready for the next day. They need to carry their own items to and from the car. If they are older, they certainly can learn to operate the washer & dryer and do their own loads.
Homework is still a priority so create them a homework time on game or practice days. Unless practices are early, waiting until the evening after a long practice or game is not an effective study time.
Stay prepared as a parent, create a responsibility chart and rules ahead of time, help them keep their priorities and you will avoid panic and stress on sports days!
If your child has already played a sport or attends a daycare or school then they already have the concept of teamwork. Take this concept and make it a skill for them! In teaching positive attitude above, I talked about pre-talks with your child. This is crucial for teaching teamwork. I have already talked to my son about his Tee-ball ‘team’. We do not know who will be on his team and I have talked to him about how exciting it will be to see how many new kids he will get to meet. I have explained to him that some kids will be so excited and other kids will be real shy. That it would be so nice if he helped the shy kids by saying Hi to them and “I bet the kids on your team love Legos and Ninjas too!”
I have promised him a reward at the end of the season if I see him being nice to his teammates and saying at least one positive comment such as “good game, team” or “Nice hit” to his teammates. I want him to find something nice to say each game to his team or a player. If he does that, I have promised him I will notice and he will be rewarded. Remember, rewards should not be given to young children as they make good plays, but when they have good attitudes. They need to be told that a game cannot be played without all of its players. One good pitch on a baseball field or goal on a soccer field is not what makes the games fun, it is that everyone has fun together.
Help your child get excited to meet his or her teammates, encourage them to use positive words and reward them for good behavior!
Is your child starting a sport this season? If your children are older, do you have memories of their first sports team? Share below, I’d love to chat about it!