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Kids Learn Life Lessons In Sports
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- When parents and coaches set good examples, team sports do more for kids than teach them the rules of the game and get them in shape.
Playing on a team is one of the best ways for children to learn life lessons as they see responsibility, respect, fairness and sportsmanship modeled. Coaches are in the unique position to mold their athletes' character on and off the playing field, and parents on the sidelines can reinforce these positive messages.
Louise Davis, child and family development specialist with the Mississippi State University Extension Service, said many parents and coaches pass up this opportunity to teach good sportsmanship and proper behavior. Some adults not only fail to teach youth responsible behavior, but they show by example all the ways not to behave.
We need to remember as parents and adults that children learn behaviors from our modeling these, Davis said. It is really hard to teach children respectfulness, honesty and responsibility when we on the sidelines yell and scream at the referees and umpires if we think they are doing a bad job of calling the game.
Davis said parents should understand that bad calls are part of the game. She encouraged parents to think about messages they are sending children when they yell at referees and coaches.
One of the best opportunities parents have to support their children is through participating in sporting events, Davis said. Just make sure as a parent on the sidelines or a coach on the field that your behavior is a good model for what you want the children to learn and apply in their own lives.
Charles Jackson has coached basketball and taught physical education at Kemper County High School for 29 years. He believes in discipline and wants his athletes to respect themselves and others. He expects the lessons he teaches on the athletic field to apply to life.
They're going to finish high school one day and hopefully will be productive citizens, Jackson said. This discipline and respect will help them in the world one day.
Jackson's rules require his athletes to say yes sir and no sir, to have neat haircuts and he prohibits sagging pants and earrings. They have matching shirts they travel in and he requires certain behavior when the team is together.
A lot of my kids are from single parents and want the discipline because they're not getting it at home, Jackson said. They come to me for advice, call me at home and look up to me as a father and as a big brother.
As proof, Jackson pointed to the fact that when the one senior graduated last year, 61 students tried out for the open position. The athletes get compliments on their appearance and behavior when they are out together, which makes them feel good.
Teachers do a good job, but I think a coach has more influence over kids because they have more contact with them, Jackson said.
Sports Illustrated for Kids online offers 10 rules for parents to follow as they watch from the sidelines. The rules, which can be summed up as always think before you act or speak, are:
- Only positive words should come out of your mouth during a game.
- If you feel a sudden urge to yell at the coach or referee, take a walk and cool off before you say something that will embarrass you or your child.
- Don't bellow instructions to your child from the sideline.
- If the opposing team has played well, give them a pat on the back.
- When your child's team loses, don't blame it on a bad call, a teammate error or anything else. Children learn from adults how to take responsibility.
- Kids always respond to the coach or parent who smiles, not the adult who criticizes or scowls.
- Kids will improve their game and their efforts if you praise them.
- Remember that most umpires and referees are volunteers donating their time to your kids, so accept that bad calls are part of sports.
- Avoid replaying a bad game on the trip home.
- With many professional athletes misbehaving, parents have to work extra hard to teach kids fair play. Make sure your own sportsmanship is flawless.