In Lane County, spring sports are in full swing.  Soccer, rugby, lacrosse, basketball, baseball, T-ball – everything is gearing up for a fun experience for kids and families.  Sports play an important role in many children’s lives and provide them with a wealth of opportunities.  Along with fitness and physical health, sports have strong ties to mental and social health and success in school.  Here’s how to get the most out of your child’s sports experience and help promote a lifelong pursuit of physical activity.

Developing an interest

Kids need encouragement and a foundation of confidence to play most sports.  Start early to develop basic skills like catching and kicking balls, hopping, skipping and jumping.

  • Go for walks in your neighborhood and balance on the lines of the sidewalk like a balance beam.
  • Play hopscotch at the park.
  • Play catch with different kinds of objects – balls, paper airplanes, discs like Frisbee’s or balloons.
  • Make it fun – notice and praise their successes and progress.

Making the choice – what sport should your child play?

In Lane County, there are lots of choices that are connected with nonprofit organizations like Kidsports, YMCA, South Valley Athletics and more.

  • Look for guidelines that promote playing and participation for all kids.  Playing is more important than winning.
  • Encourage your child’s interest in joining a team to be with friends or participating in a sport, even if it’s a sport you are not particularly interested in.  Follow your child’s interest – they will be more committed.  Helping kids make choices for themselves will help them become better decision makers and reduce arguments and power struggles later on.
  • Talk through the sports they may be interested in – how the game is played, what kind of equipment is needed and costs.  Unless you feel the sport is too expensive or dangerous for your child, support your child’s choices.
  • It’s OK if they want to try lots of sports!  Interested in soccer in the spring and softball in the summer? Let them try out their abilities in different ways.

Promoting success

Success in youth sports should be tied to having fun and getting to play. While mastery of the game is a part of the fun, most kids won’t grow up to be a sports star and the lessons of losing are as important as those of winning.  Put competition aside for enjoyment of the game.  Here are some pointers for doing so.

  • Encourage your child to attend all practices and games. Help your child arrive on time and stay for the full length of the practice or game. Kids get the full benefit of their experience by showing up!
  • Support your child’s coach!
  • Talk to your child about good sporting behavior.  Being a part of the team, paying attention to the coaches and doing their best gives them life skills they can apply to other areas of their lives.
  • Model good sporting behavior yourself.  Say something positive about your child’s actions as well as the coach, the rest of the team and even the opponents.  Note how hard everyone is trying and build your child’s confidence.
  • Keep the negative feedback for the coach to give.  Your best role is to be a supporter and fan of your child’s accomplishments.

When there is a problem

Both parents and kids can fall into the bad sportsmanship trap.  Bad sportsmanship can happen sometimes because there is too much emphasis on winning.

  • Remember that an emphasis on wins can make children feel inadequate when there is a loss. Stay positive even if your child is disappointed. There will be other days and other games to play!
  • Gloating over a win or great play can be just as damaging to a child’s confidence and can be a form of bullying.  Don’t reward your child for that type of behavior and remind him or her that winning is not everything.
  • Switch activities if poor sportsmanship is becoming a problem.  Your child may find a new skill or remember what it’s like to be a new learner.
  • Watch your own behavior when you’re watching a game.  Your child will follow your lead regardless of your words.  Model good sportsmanship and your child will do the same.

Engaging in a sport, regardless of what kind, provides all sorts of learning experiences and promotes healthful, lifelong skills.  Encouraging your children to participate can be fun for the whole family!


This article is brought to you by Parenting Now! Parenting Educators and authors Claire Davis and Lynne Swartz and consultant Jay Thompson (  Parenting Now! is passionate about happy, healthy families. For more information about Parenting Now! please visit their website ( or contact us at

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