Raising A Well Rounded Student-Athlete

Parents supporting young athletes aim for a balanced approach, nurturing skills, fun, and character, while managing pressures and fostering diverse interests.

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Each parent's vision of what is best for their child will most likely differ from family to family. If part of your vision for your child's future includes an athletic career, you may be wondering how to properly nurture that while also ensuring your child has a well-rounded schedule. From enrolling them in sports camps or a youth sports performance program to supporting them when they play for their community or school team, parents of young athletes put in a lot of time, energy, and money to help their child succeed. Here are some tips for parents who want to raise a well-rounded athlete:

1. Encourage them to play multiple sports: Before your child knows what sport they want to commit to, it is wise to encourage them to continue playing multiple sports. This will help them to be better all-around athletes because they will learn different skills and movements while gaining experience by playing for different coaches.

2. Lead by example: Children who have parents that are physically active and have a healthy attitude regarding competition are likely to follow suit. Set an example by exercising regularly, or even make time to play sports with your child. Also, remember that your child is watching you when you are watching or playing games, so make sure you are demonstrating good sportsmanship and a positive, competitive spirit.

3. Avoid applying too much pressure: A poll done by the National Alliance for Youth Sports revealed that 70% of American kids stop playing organized sports by the age of 13 because it stops being fun. Avoid applying too much pressure, and make sure their sport (or sports) aren't the only topic of conversation during their downtime.

4. Emphasize the importance of having fun: It goes without saying that when an activity stops being fun, the desire to continue significantly decreases. Make sure your child is having fun while playing their sport, and they'll be more likely to want to continue playing. Even legendary basketball player Michael Jordan demonstrated the importance of continuing to have fun with his sport. He included a "love-of-the-game" clause in his contracts that said he could play basketball whenever he wanted to. This included exhibition games, scrimmages, or even pickup games. Let your child take the lead: While some guidance will be needed from you when it comes to researching and signing up for teams, a youth sports performance program, or youth sports camps, it is important to follow your child's lead as far as the sports they choose to pursue and the intensity with which they decide to do so. Pushing instead of supporting often leads to burnout.

5. Be your child's number-one fan: Support and encouragement are incredibly beneficial in helping your child to be both a successful athlete and overall young adult. Knowing that you're simply at their competitions will do wonders for their confidence, and they will remember how supportive you were for their entire life.

6. Help your child with structure: If your child and your family have decided that playing their sport at an elite level is the path they want to take, they should understand how much hard work and commitment will be needed. Balancing training and competition while still dedicating time to school and social activities will require a lot of structure, which you will need to help them with." Whenever we have an alumni from college or the professional tours return to the academy to talk with our students, the first advice that they share with current students is regarding time management.", says Scott Davies, Director of Golf Operations at IMG Academy." Regardless of the level you compete at, your ability to manage your time has a tremendous influence upon your success."

7. Remember the big picture: Unless your child becomes a professional athlete, they will eventually be joining the adult world one day. Most Olympic and collegiate athletes will end up entering the workforce, so it is important to teach them that their athletic achievements aren't a complete measure of their self-worth. Encourage your child to value themselves for more than just their athletic abilities and help them to find other interests outside of their sport so that they will become well-rounded adults as well.

8. Be realistic about adversity: Setbacks are just part of being an athlete. Dealing with the letdown of a loss, obstacles, such as injuries, or disappointments like not qualifying for a major competition or not being selected for a collegiate sports program are just as much a part of being an athlete as winning games and achieving new personal bests. Approaching adversity realistically will help your child to manage their emotions and bounce back when situations don't go their way.

It may feel like there's a lot of pressure to raise your young athlete the correct way, and what's correct can vary from family to family, too. While you're driving them to games and practices, enrolling them in a youth sports performance program, and taking them to sports camps and clinics, it is also important to help nurture their attitude towards playing sports and provide them with your support and encouragement throughout their entire athletic career and beyond.

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