THE TOP TEN SPORTS PARENTING MYTHS
(As presented on Rick Wolff’s Sports Edge Radio Show, Sunday AM, September 28, 2013)
1) The younger you can get your child on a travel team, the better.
In some teams, travel teams start as early as age 5 or 6. We talked the other day about a soccer program out in LA that draws in kids who are 18 months old. That’s nonsense.
Here’s the bottom line on having your kid specialize on a travel team at a tender age. Nobody has ever produced a valid scientific study that shows that having your child play on a travel team at a very early age is going to guarantee their athletic success down the road.
Now, think about that. There are no such studies.
On the other hand, it’s the instinctive mindset of parents everywhere that if I can somehow give my kid an early start, then that will catapult ahead of their peers.
Yeah, I know all those arguments…but I just don’t know if they actually work.
However, on the other side of the coin, there are lots of studies that show that burnout is a real problem for kids in their early teens – and burnout usually affects kids who have been playing one sport for a long, long time on a travel team.
Burnout usually hits around the ages of 11 or 12. And when a kid burns out, they rarely come back to the sport.
2) All travel team coaches are certified instructors, have degrees in physical education or psychology, and have a solid background in coaching kids.
Just a reminder….ANYBODY can say they’re a travel coach and start their own team. There are no rules, no regulations, and no licenses needed. And in truth, most travel teams –especially at the younger ages – are started by local Dads who are eager to give their own kid a leg-up.
And often, these Dads “pre-appoint” the kids on the team. That is, they quietly arrange to have the “better” athletes in town to be on the team. Then, they have try outs…but as you might imagine, the die is already cast.
It’s very, very hard – and cruel – to have your 8 or 9 year old have their hopes so high when trying out for the team…only to NOT make the team. Even worse, to realize that the team was actually pre-selected by the Dad who runs the team with his buddies.
Bottom line? There’s a lot of good about travel teams…but DO YOUR HOMEWORK first. It’s really caveat emptor.
Unlike teachers, who have to be certified by the state in which they work, travel coaches have no such requirements. Unfortunately, too many parents automatically assume that travel coaches are well equipped to work with kids when, in face, they aren’t. Do your homework on any travel team coach before your son or daughter tries out. Never assume that the travel coach has any real credentials as a coach OR that the tryouts are done on an equal basis.
3) The sooner your child specializes in just one sport, the better chance they have of advancing to a higher level (e.g. college, professional ranks).
I can’t emphasize this enough….especially for kids who play TEAM sports, bear this in mind – -most of today’s top professional athletes didn’t even think to specialize in just one sport until they were in high school, around the age of 15 – 9th or 10th grade. When they were younger, they played a variety of sports, depending on the season.
Now. some youth and travel coaches will pressure kids to just play one sport. Again, be wary of this!
In addition to burnout worries, ask yourself: how does your child know which sport will be their best one unless they try a bunch of different sports? When they’re young, let them try a bunch of activities – and then let them decide.
How many NFL football players am I watching each Sunday and the commentator says, “This big tight end never even played college football…he played basketball in school.”
Or how about Michael Cox, the running back on the Giants? He was a gung-ho ice hockey player growing up…never even touched a football until he was in HS – and yet he’s playing in the NFL, not the NHL.
Doug Abrams reminds us that Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax was a basketball star in Brooklyn and went to college at the University of Cincinnati on a basketball player. That didn’t seem to get in the way of his pitching career.
These kinds of examples are endless. Athletes who didn’t specialize in a sport, or who shifted from one sport to another as they got into HS.
4) The very best time to teach your youngster how to improve their play is immediately after the game; ideally, in the car ride on the way home while their game actions are still fresh in their mind.
That’s the absolute worst time to critique your child! Evaluating their game right after the match is finished will drive them away from the sport — and from you!
We haven’t talked about the PGA in awhile…but the Post-Game Analysis is still dangerous to inflict on your child. Don’t do it!
As a well-meaning parent who wants their kid to improve, DON”T mistake of thinking I have to go over his or her mistakes while the game is still fresh in their head. Wait until a quiet moment later that evening or the next day. For right now, just let them enjoy the moment.
5) A youngster who is a top athlete among his or her peers at age 8 is clearly destined to be a star when they’re 18.
While this happens sometimes, more times than not, it doesn’t. There’s very little predictive value when it comes to saying that an 8-year-old will grow to be a superior athlete when they’re 18.
There are just too many factors – the adolescent growth spurt (or lack thereof), the youngster’s personal motivation, skill level, etc. – that will influence how that athlete will develop when it comes to sports.
I recall a study from some years ago in a small town that revealed that the kids who were the athletic stars at age 8 – only about 25% of those kids were also athletic stars at age 18. That’s right – only a quarter.
The lesson? Never underestimate the power of adolescence! Everything changes a lot during those key years.
6) Creatine as well as other nutritional supplements that are sold in health stores have all been proven to be safe for kids; otherwise, it would be illegal for the stores to sell these products.
While creatine and a number of other nutritional supplement products are legal in most states, that doesn’t mean that they’re healthy for your youngster. Be forewarned! There are no long range medical or scientific studies that show that these supplements are safe to ingest!
Problem is…our kids assume that if they are for sale in a nicely colored package or can, they must be safe. Educate your kids!!
Understand that not all of these products are approved by the Food and Drug Administration….as such, kids ingest them and sometimes in large quantities (hey, if one dosage is recommended, why not get twice the impact by taking a double dosage?)
Warn your kids. That’s your responsibility.
7) Sportsmanship is something that can only be taught by your child’s coach.
Not quite. In fact, being a good sport starts with you — his or her parent. First, starting when they’re young, you should teach your child how to behave not only after a loss, but also after a win. Explain to them what’s the right way to act.
Secondly, during the heat of games, you have to set a positive example of how to behave – especially when a call goes against your child or child’s team. Be advised: Kids watch carefully to see how you react when things aren’t going your way. So if you’re going nuts on a call, they will automatically follow your pattern.
Leaving the lessons of sportsmanship up to the coach is a mistake. The coach should only have to enforce good sportsmanship – not teach it as well.
8) All coaches are created equal.
Unfortunately, that’s just not true. There are a few exceptionally good coaches. There are also a few very bad coaches. Most fall somewhere in the middle. Like anything else in life, you hope that your child is lucky enough to play for a couple of those gifted coaches along the way, and can somehow avoid the not-so-good ones.
With teachers, usually your kid is stuck with whoever they get…but with coaches, it can sometimes be different.
Again, do your homework before the season begins. Ask around to other parents. See if you can find out which coaches care about the kids – and which coaches are more focused on other priorities.
9) Kids will be happy so long as they’re part of a winning team.
Big misconception. All kids prefer to play – and play a lot – on a losing or not-so-good team, so long as they’re playing in the games — as opposed to playing only sparingly on a championship team.
The kids instinctively know that the fun of the sport is in the actual playing – not in being on the sidelines and having to applaud one of their teammates.
The good and great coaches not only know this truth…but they also embrace it. They make sure ALL the kids play, and play a lot, in each game.
10) The vast majority of Moms and Dads tend to be honest and fairly objective about their child’s ability in sports.
While we like to think we are, the truth is – we really aren’t. And you’re kidding yourself if you don’t acknowledge this.
Most parents see their youngster are simply being better looking, smarter than the other kids, and certainly more athletically talented than the others.
Relax. This is all part of being a sports parent. But do what you can to keep your bragging to just you and your spouse. Problems erupt when you try and convince the other parents that your kid is a star!