First off, if your child has just signed up (or rather, you registered them) for their first year on a youth sports team then welcome to the world of sports parenting! It’s going to be a bumpy but exciting ride as you learn the ins and outs of balancing practice schedules with other commitments, get sticker shock at the price of new equipment and learn how to deal with life on the sidelines. But just like this first season will be a learning experience for you it will also be a learning experience for your youth athlete. And while some kids dive headfirst into youth sports with all the gusto and spirit that only a 6 year old can manage, others might be a little more cautious and nervous about playing sports for the first time. Here are 3 tips to help your youth athlete overcome their first year jitters:
1. Start with intramural sports.
Let’s say your child is a little older, maybe 8 or 9, and they decide they want to play baseball for the first time. They’ll be on a team with other kids their age, but some of those kids may have been playing baseball (in some form or another) for 2 or 3 years at this point. While there is still a lot for those kids to learn chances are they’ll have a better handle on the basics, like how to throw a ball or swing a bat properly, than your child will simply because they have been playing longer. Some kids might be intimated by players that have more experience than them or they might be embarrassed and feel like they aren’t “good enough” for the team. If that’s the case then why not consider signing you child up for an intramural team where they can learn the fundamentals of the sport without the pressure of belonging to a “real” sports team. It might just be the confidence boost they need to overcome their first year sports jitters.
2. Practice with them at home.
You don’t need to be a superstar athlete yourself to play catch in the backyard or kick a soccer ball around. Some youth athletes are deathly afraid of making a mistake in front of their teammates, which actually means they freeze up on the field. By giving them the opportunity to practice at home, which is a safe space, it might help them get more comfortable and confident in their own abilities. Plus, it’s a good excuse to get up, get moving and get outside! As they say, practice makes perfect so an extra few hours of practice a week can make a big difference come game day.
3. Keep reminding them that they are just starting out.
We all want to be awesome at something the first time we try it, but that’s just not how it works! Keep reminding your child that they’ll get better with time and that it’s okay to make mistakes while they learn. Try to draw an analogy from another time they had to learn how to do something and are now good at it. It might assuage their fears of not being good enough to play on a youth sports team.
We’d love to hear from coaches and sports parents on this one! How have you helped a youth athlete overcome their first year jitters?