Prepare Your Kids for Success in Sports

Before they enter kindergarten, parents typically prepare their little ones by learning the fundamentals: numbers, letters, colors, and shapes.

They often don’t prepare kids the same way before their first organized sports experience, which can lead to less than ideal outcomes.

“Moms and dads are putting their kids in these programs and they’re set up for failure,” said Andy Parker, director, Youth Development Programs, National Alliance for Youth Sports (NAYS).

Parker gave a talk to recreation programmers from around the state of Michigan at a recent mParks Conference and Trade Show, held in Grand Rapids.

While youth sports are great for social, mental and emotional development in children, Parker said children often aren’t starting on an equal playing field from a skills perspective.

A Northern Kentucky University study found that nearly 50 percent of children ages five to 10 didn’t have the skills to succeed in youth sports programs. The research highlighted a need for motor skills development at younger ages, before kids even think about dribbling a basketball or kicking a soccer ball. Parker was at the conference promoting NAYS’ Start Smart program, which helps kids build confidence by performing motor skills tasks in a non-competitive setting.

Unprepared kids often become frustrated because they end up not getting as much playing time or just find the overall experience a pain point due to their deficiencies. This can also lead to frustration for parents and coaches as well. Parker noted that 70 percent of youth sport athletes drop out by the age of 13 for a variety of reasons.

If your community doesn’t offer a pre-skills program for future youth sports participants, Parker gave these tips to help your budding athlete be the best they can be:

  • Make sure they understand the rules of the game.
  • Attend local games or watch them on television.
  • Try to develop their fundamental skills. If they’re interested in basketball, work on dribbling before their first day on the court. If they want to play softball, play some catch in the backyard.
  • Provide appropriate equipment.

Ultimately, when determining whether a child is ready or not, or in some cases if they should play at a more advanced level, coaches and parents need to work together to determine what’s best for the child.

How did you get your kids ready to play youth sports? Tell us in the comments.

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Photo credit: Bill Andrews

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  1. My youngest son recently joined his older brother in the basketball team. He seemed so uncomfortable at first with the rules and the team, the coach…Thankfully, his brother helped him through it, expressing his enthousiasm for the sport and once my little son made some new friends, he instantly loved it!

    1. That’s a great story, Anne! Sibling support can make a huge difference. Thank you for sharing.

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