There are some subjects that homeschoolers face with a certain amount of fear and trepidation. Maybe you struggle with teaching math or languages. Whatever it is, help is out there. The homeschooling movement has been around long enough now that curriculum’s have been developed and adapted to accommodate the parent teacher. There is one area, though, that is required and is easy to ignore, Physical Education. We are required by law to do 20 minutes of PE a day. There are many options out there..from video tapes to classes to playing in sports leagues. We are fortunate this year at Grace Prep that we will have Kim Smith offering some P.E. Classes. What I want to address here are the issues you face if you want your child to get involved in organized sports.
At the beginning of soccer and baseball season I generally get a few questions about what I think about putting kids into organized sports. Parents have legitimate concerns, from over-enthusiastic parents to out of control coaches.
In our family, we do sports. The boys have played in organized soccer, baseball, and basketball leagues. Steve has coached, managed, and served on boards, written coaching manuals…well, you get the idea. There are some important things you need to keep in mind if you want your child to benefit from participating in sports…and just about every other kids activity that involves competition.
GET A REALITY CHECK. More than likely your child is not going to be a professional athlete. Chances are they won’t even get a college scholarship. The expectation that a child should succeed to that level is pressure no five, eight or ten year old needs. Not to mention that at five, eight or ten years of age, you can’t pick out future major leaguers, so relax. (And even if you do have a truly gifted child, you still want them to love the game. Expectations can suck the joy right out of what should be a a great memory of childhood.)
BE INVOLVED. First, you need to know who your child’s coaches are and how they run things. Second, all the sports leagues are run by volunteers and they need help. If you sign your child up to play in one of the leagues (or go to 4H, CYT, or other youth activity) be prepared to volunteer some hours. It’s only fair.
BE POSITIVE. a) When you are on the sidelines keep all of your comments positive. If there is a bad call, leave it to the coach to handle. Besides being a positive role model for both your child and other parents, it makes no sense to get the umpire mad at your team. b) Be positive with your child. Praise their efforts. Believe me, they already know if they have blown a play. They don’t need you to point it out. c) Be positive with your child’s coach. Again, let me point out that these are busy people volunteering their time for your child’s benefit, often with very little thanks. They deserve your support.
PERFECT ISN’T PERFECT. Most parents think that the ideal would be to have their child placed on a great team that went through the season without a loss. Not necessarily. Let’s go back to square one…character. We want to develop character in our children. Most of the time character is developed in hard circumstances like loosing a game, striking out, dropping a fly ball or missing a goal. It’s in these circumstances that our children learn humility, how to receive instruction, and how to control their temper. An equally important lesson is when a teammate strikes out at a critical juncture of a game. Here our children have the opportunity to show empathy and offer a word of encouragement. This is where our children begin to learn what it is to be a part of a team. These are good lessons for future spouses and parents. For our part as parents, we need to walk the fine line between wanting our children to try hard and do their best, and accepting the inevitable failures that come with playing a sport. Be prepared to keep a lid on your emotions.
ATTITUDE IS EVERYTHING. Lindsey Davenport was a world tennis champion. The really big news about her is that she has no entourage, no limo, and no attitude. In an interview she was asked if she ever had a tantrum on the court. She said, once when she was 11 or 12, she threw her racket down at a championship match. Her father took her rackets, locked them in the trunk of his car, and told her she was through with tennis. In spite of her obvious talent, he was more concerned with her attitude, her character. It paid off. After she and her mother convinced him to give her another chance, she never again behaved that way on the court. All our children should know the same thing. While we can’t always expect our children to make the right play, we can expect them to demonstrate the right attitude. When they don’t, we need to take immediate action. This is obviously more important than any game.
BE FLEXIBLE. All of our children need to be active, but they may not have a love for competitive sports. Try to find something that holds their interest, whether it be swimming, dance, karate of horseback riding. Don’t give up. The benefits of developing regular exercise into their lives will benefit them for the rest of their lives.
Lastly, on a side note, my sons have found that their ability to play soccer has been an invaluable tool on the mission field, both in Africa and Mexico. If you have a soccer ball…language is not a barrier. Food for Thought when choosing a sport.