07. August 2015 · Comments Off on Helping Your Kids Through Competitive Youth Football · Categories: Kid Sports

Looking for a way to help your kids through their years of playing competitive youth football? Life can be stressful enough for kids, there's no need to add any pressure when it comes to playing sports! Here's a guide to help parents support, guide, and encourage their football playing children. 

7 Guides for Parents to Help Their Children through Competitive Youth Football

For most American families, August marks the waning of summer... a last chance at backyard BBQs, road trips and beach days before kids go back to school.

Yet, for those who have boys or girls in competitive football, August means TRAINING — a physically and mentally challenging schedule of conditioning workouts and practice intended to prepare them for the sport's rigors.

With training typically four-to-five days per week, the stress begins straight out of the gate, as new and returning players volley for key positions, often pushing the limits of training to earn a coach's trust and a spot on the starting roster.

At every age level, there are different challenges during this process.

Understanding the challenges presented to kids at different age levels, and at different times of their football careers, is key to teaching them well. 

According to the Long-Term Athlete Development model*, the primary concerns and pressures for young athletes (ages: 6-9) are hopefully shouldered by the coaches, so that they may develop the basic physical and mental fundamentals of sport.

The key emphasis during this period is for the kids to have FUN (hopefully fun is a life-long mission, too).

So many kids become too stressed out while playing team sports. It's important to make sure they know that sports should be fun. Their lives will be stressful enough as they get older, there's no need for it to be like that now. 

During the ages of 10 to 12, the focus is to teach athletes how to actually train.

The primary concerns for coaches during these two stages would range from “Am I creating an environment that promotes fundamental movements for sport, enthusiasm for learning and fun?” — to — “How well can I teach the kids to love the challenge of finding out how good they can become, today?”

For young athletes, the primary goal is best served to create an environment that stimulates enjoyment while blending movement and skill development.

So what can parents do to help navigate the natural pressures on their children in competitive sports like football?

Consider the following seven tips:

  1. Learn to ask the right questions.
  2. Help them create a plan, with purpose.
  3. Model optimism.
  4. Show true support.
  5. Be here, right now with them.
  6. Look out for warning signs.
  7. Know when to say “when.”

Now, let's take a look at each of them in more detail

1. Learn to ask the right questions.

Instead of stating your opinion about his/her performance, ask your child more questions, and — this is important — listen!

Here are some examples of open-ended, strength-based, improvement-focused questions:

  • What was practice like for you today?
  • What was the most exciting part? The most fun? The hardest part?
  • What types of things did you learn today?
  • What can I do to help with your training?
  • Where and when should we talk (and not talk) about football (e.g., car rides are off-limits; dinner table is OK)?

Learning how to speak to your kids about different things in their lives is very important. Keeping the lines of communication open helps promote trust and understanding with both you and them.

2. Help them create a plan, with purpose.

Your child's mission might be to earn a starting quarterback role on a Pop Warner team but, before that, he should be aware that he'll need to be able to throw the ball well, read a defensive line, memorize lots of offensive options and gain some experience making decisions and executing plays in that position.

Spend just a few minutes writing down some of the skills that your athlete can work on that will lead them to their goal. Help them focus on working the plan, rather than becoming consumed with the achievement of the goal.

3. Model optimism.

Try to reframe negative experiences as more positive ones. For example, not getting the starting quarterback job for the first few games might be an opportunity to play some other positions.

After all, if you want to be a good quarterback, you would want to have the perspective of everyone else on the field like what a running back sees, how a safety reads a play, and what a defensive lineman has to do to shut down a QB.

4. Show true support.

Athletes, especially those in a position to be highly influenced by other people (read: teammates, coaches, parents), tend to do better in situations if they feel supported, encouraged and challenged.

If they don't fear letting someone down after a mistake, for example, they can become freed from worry, which allows brain, body and mind to settle down and just play the game.

All children need love, support, and encouragement — this is the best way to build confidence. Kids who play sports are no different. 

If a child feels constantly evaluated and judged by everyone around him/her, they are more likely to make errors under pressure.

Read more here — 7 Guides for Parents to Help Their Children through Competitive Youth Football|Michael Gervais, Ph.D.

How do you support and encourage your children? What do you like best about being the parent of a child who plays football? 

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