Preparing for Your Child's First Competitive Sport

My daugheter playing soccer.My daugheter playing soccer.The time has come for your child to make a big transition when it comes to sports. Gone are the days when no one kept score and everyone won a trophy; it's suddenly time for competitive sports. Whether your son or daughter has finally graduated to a county team from a local community league or is trying out instead of simply signing up, competitive sports are a unique beast and a rite of passage for many.

What should you know about your son or daughter's first attempt at competitive sports?

Keep your schedule open.

Where recreational sports programs may only practice and play once a week, competitive leagues require a true time commitment from both students and their families. Be prepared for regular (sometimes daily) practices and a busy game schedule that may involve traveling, depending on your sport, season, and age level of the children.

Be sure your child's heart is in it.

Learn from my mistakes-don't sign your child up for a sport (recreational or competitive) just because you think it would be a good introduction or you think they'll like it. You're destined for failure if some of the interest doesn't lie with your child.

Practice makes perfect.

Don't let your child head out for try-outs unprepared. If your child hasn't been active in the off-season, make sure they take time to run and bone up on their skills before their first try-out.

Encourage effort.

Though the time for participation trophies may have passed, that doesn't mean that now's the time to teach kids that winning is everything. It isn't. Encourage your son or daughter to do the best they can. Reward small progress. Keep trying and supporting on and off of the field.

Watch or attend sporting events.

If you're interested in getting your child involved in his or her first competitive sport, have realistic expectations. If you've never shown an interest or exposed your child to football, it's unlikely that you'll have the next Tom Brady on your hands.

Timing is everything.

Don't push your child into competitive sports before they're ready. Recreational sports may be all that interests your child and pushing them into something competitive can be a major turn off.

Read the rules. Follow them.

Make yourself aware of the team's rules and regulations for athletes and parents. Many competitive sports leagues require both parents and children to sign a contract for behavior on and off the field. Know what's expected of your child. Make sure they follow through. Do the same for yourself.

Seek outside help.

Does an older cousin play tennis at a competitive level? Have him introduce your child to the sport or practice with him or her. Allow your child to train with friends and family who have similar sports interests.

Understand that not everyone may make the team.

If your child is trying out for a competitive sports team, make sure he understands that not all the kids may make the varsity team. Be sure he's prepared in case it happens, and has a back-up plan for activity during the season instead.

Don't be "that parent."

While great coaches will judge athletes based on skills alone, they're human, too. Don't be that parent who shouts alternate directions from the sidelines, thinks he knows better than the coach, or causes tension for parents and athletes alike. You won't help your child.

Content by Kelly Herdrich.

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