Tips for bringing up kids in a ‘sports culture’
Is your child or a child you know heavily into sports? Are you or is someone around you a pushy parent? Is it your dream they’re pursuing or theirs?
We believe encouraging your child is important but when do you know if you are taking it a step too far? Here Dr. Robert Weil shares some tips of how to support your child in the sports world and reminds us to that sports are supposed to be fun….
Being a parent is one of life’s great joys. It’s also one of life’s great challenges. Add in the world of sports with all its ‘stuff’ and you may find the challenges go up another notch. I’ve got to say though that the vast majority of parents handle things very well, it’s only the minority that maybe lose sight of what it’s all about.
Of course, when children are young, and ‘everybody plays’, sports fit in quite comfortably with everything else. As kids get older, maybe middle school and above, the pressure is on everyone, the parents, the kids, the whole family. When we’re talking about parenting the young ‘serious athlete’, then things can mount into problems.
Naperville family psychologist and psychiatrist Dr. Marty Kraus of Naperville Family Counseling — multiple-time guest on “The Sports Doctor” radio show — believes the whole family is involved in endless ways in developing the young athlete.
“Relationships between the young athlete and his or her parents, between siblings, between the youngster and coach all are important,” Kraus said. “We are in a sports culture where almost anything goes, and the pressure on these elite kids can be overwhelming.”
Pushing kids too far, too fast, or too aggressively often leads to injuries, and all sorts of potential problems. Most injuries are overuse — just too much pressure on young growing bodies. Many times we are talking about pre-adolescents who are already playing their sport every day, almost year-round. (Go to Sports DoctorRadio.com for numerous articles on foot and lower extremity overuse injuries.)
The late, great Dr. Jim Vicory, who shared The Sports Doctor radio show with me in the mid-1980s and early 1990s, was a prominent sports psychologist. He had some excellent general roles for parents to pay attention to with their young athletes.
1. Don’t be a critic, analyzing all the details of your child’s performance.
2. Pay attention to what they did well.
3. Always use encouragement.
4. Don’t be afraid to speak to coaches “respectfully” regarding questions you have or problems your youngster has.
Vicory often spoke about overzealous parents and the pressures they would put on kids, as well as their often outlandish behavior.
Kraus often asks, whose goal is it? The young athletes or their moms or dads?
Trying to make the team, trying to excel, maybe gain a college scholarship or beyond – are all potential pressure cookers. It is important to always remember that sports are supposed to be fun.
Here are some responses of answers to questions I posed to the moms of two great Naperville athletes on past Sports Doctor radio shows. The questions: “How did you know you weren’t pushing too far, too fast, in your young superstar’s quest to be the best?” and “How did you know that the “dreams/goals” were theirs, not yours?”
Tanya Lysacek, mother of Olympic gold medal men’s champion figure skater Evan Lysacek responded:
“When Evan was a youngster, he often had ice time very early, 6, 6:30 a.m. I never had to wake him up — there he was, with his hat and gloves, ready to go. I knew he had the fire.” (You can hear her interview at sportsdoctorradio.com, radio shows, March 11.)
Janice Lumpkin, mother of four-time Illinois State Tennis Champion Elizabeth Lumpkin replied:
“Liz’s father and I played tennis and Liz was always hitting balls against the garage even as a 5-, 6-year-old. As she developed into a great player, I made it very clear to her — it’s your goal, we loved you before you picked up the tennis racquet, and we’ll love you if you put it down … it’s up to you.”
These are two great examples of proper perspective in dealing with potential young champions.
For more information regarding sports psychology or enhancing performance, contact Kraus at NapervilleFamilyCounseling.com or call 630-527-1631.
Dr. Robert Weil is a sports podiatrist from Naperville with an office in Aurora. You can hear him on his weekly radio show at 6:30p.m. Thursdays on 90.9-FM. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and visit his website at sportsdoctorradio.com.
Remember to always consult a licensed healthcare practitioner before embarking on any treatment, it’s your health and it’s IMPORTANT. Disclaimer
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