4 Guidelines for Sports Families


A few weeks back Coach Dawn wrote a post that I think should be invaluable to any sports family.  Her notes on 6 Reasons Kids Quit Sports sparked a quick email conversation between the two of us.   With two young boys of my own, ages 9 and 11, I continue to be very interested in what keeps kids motivated in sports, and what causes them to “burn out”, often at rather young ages.

Our family, meaning my wife and I, have been working with a few guidelines that we’re hoping will help combat “burn out”.  We’ve both been coaches for a number of years, so naturally our children jumped into sports at a young age.  We could have hardly prevented it, if we would have felt we needed to try.  There’s been no study or formal testing of these guidelines.  These are simply what we’ve been doing.  And…we have no true data set…as we do not yet know for sure if our two boys will burn out or not.  So, I submit them to you for your review…

  • GUIDELINE 1:  They Can Play Any Sport They Want

At young ages, the more the better I think.  Dr. David Geier’s writings assert the same thing.  Have them play multiple sports.  Not only will it help prevent burn out, but it may actually make them perform better in their favorite sports.  As parents, it is understandable that we don’t like certain sports, or like some sports better than others, but maybe we shouldn’t overly influence what sports our kids choose.  I think logical parameters would have to exist, two examples would be time and expense.  I told Coach Dawn that if one of our boys decides he wants to take up base-jumping or jet-fuel racing, we might have to adjust this guideline!!  But generally, let them pick anything they want to play, mainstream or not-so-mainstream, go to it!

  • GUIDELINE 2:  They Do Not “Have” to Play Any Sport

This one is tough for us sometimes.  When I was in high school, I played many sports, but if you asked me, I’d say I was a “football player”.  That was my primary sport.  Now I coach volleyball.  My wife was a record holder as a collegiate swimmer and has coached swimming ever since.  Guess which three sports our boys show very little interest in playing?  We’d love to see them on the swim team, or at little league football, or into youth volleyball.   But it’s OK that they are not.  We’ve decided we’re not going to force them into our favorite sports, or into any sports.   They will play what they want to play…not what we want them to play

  • GUIDELINE 3:  One Sport at a Time

It’s rather obvious that you can now play just about any sport, all year round, at any age.  Good or bad, it is a reality that sports are available all the time.  It’s easy to fall into playing more than one sport at a time.  This guideline is one that I feel pretty strongly about.  It’s complicated, and maybe not fair, to have kids try to keep up with more than one sport.   One winter we ignored this guideline. Our older boy wrestled and played basketball.  Pretty soon he got real tired, every day.  And didn’t always look forward to either practice…and eventually wasn’t even excited about the games or tournaments.  It was just too much.   There might be overlaps when one season ends and another begins, but we’re going to try hard to stick to one sports schedule at a time!

  • GUIDELINE 4:  If They Start a Sport, They Must Finish that Sport

This means we will not allow them to quit mid-season.  Kids often like to be involved in everything, so they might want to try something.  And that’s all good, but we ask…no we make…them play it out for the season.  Give it a chance for the duration of one season before deciding that it’s not for them.  Furthermore, they’ve made a commitment to the team, and that is important to learn, even at a young age.  So, barring extreme circumstances of course, we will make sure they fulfill that obligation.

There you have it.  My Four Guidelines for Sports Families.  I’d love to hear feedback.  Tell me what you think, maybe you like them, maybe you feel they’re hogwash.  In any case, the discussion is important.  You hear story after story of the star athlete, with a bright promising future, who instead gives up the sport prematurely.  As a college coach, I always hate to see that.   It’s always a tragedy when a sport becomes a burden for an athlete.  Sports are great for so many reasons, let’s try hard to make sure they stay great for the young athlete, for a long time!

Keep reading Coach Dawn Writes.  Great stuff every post!!

Want more info on youth sports?  Check out Y Is For Youth Sports: 5 Reasons Kids Should Play Sports and 4 Reasons Our Children Should Play Sports (Or My Love Letter To Athletics).

Today’s post  was written by Randall Kreider, the Head Volleyball Coach at Elizabethtown College.  As you can see, he’s a coach and a dad…please contact him with any questions.