As a kid growing up in the Yakima Valley, I played youth sports. When I wasn’t at practice, I was with friends playing “dunk” basketball, wiffle baseball, or “touch” football, which really never seemed to work out that way. Sports were what I did for fun, or at least that’s what I thought. Perhaps my parents knew more than I gave them credit for since, as it turns out, there are many benefits to youth sports.
Improved physical health is the most obvious benefit. Youth sports are a fun way to increase a child’s physical activity level and develop lifelong habits for good health. Kids who play sports often outperform their peers in the classroom. Attendance and grades are better. Kids who play youth sports have higher self-esteem, stronger connections with their school, better peer relationships, and fewer behavioral problems.
The discipline and training needed to participate in sports helps to develop successful adults. Athletes learn the importance of teamwork and of following leadership. They also learn to win and lose with dignity. Being an athlete takes time and requires initiative and self-motivation. Sports help kids to develop self-control, persistence, and accountability. Youth sports also provide invaluable opportunities for kids to engage in important and positive relationships with adults.
Once I had kids of my own, I wanted my kids and their friends to gain the benefits of youth sports. My love of sports naturally led me to coaching. The benefits of youth sports do not happen automatically. Positive benefits are more likely when kids have positive and supportive relationships with teammates and coaches. A good coach helps players to develop the skills needed to participate in the sport and also the social skills needed to enjoy the sport and teammates. The more fun a kid has playing a sport, the more likely they are to stick with it and reap the long term benefits.
My coaching philosophy has always been to stress safety and fundamentals. That gives kids the basic skills and knowledge needed to enjoy the sport and be successful. Every player on every team has an important role. It is also important to teach kids to enjoy what they are doing even though it is sometimes difficult. Playing sports requires sacrifices in other areas. Kids who play youth sports have less time to sit around staring at their smart phones, tablets, and video games. Sounds like a good reason to get your kids involved in youth sports, right?
Injury is a natural concern when it comes to youth sports, and April’s Youth Sports Safety Month is a good time to re-examine how our kids are playing and competing. While some injuries are not preventable, a good coach will minimize the risk. Coaches want to prevent or stop sports injuries, if possible. By teaching proper fundamentals, discussing safety issues, and providing adequate supervision, many injuries can be avoided. While injury is a risk of physical activity, a good coach can help to limit preventable injuries.
Coaching youth sports has provided me with a great opportunity to be a positive leader and role model for kids (and their parents) in the Yakima Valley.