When it comes to getting you child interested in youth sports, it can either be the most fun experience you have with your child or the most frustrating. Being a sports lover myself I was very pleased when my son started showing signs that he was interested in things like baseball, basketball, football, and soccer. It was not all that difficult to get him further involved in sports, both playing and watching. However, I have some friends who would love for their child to show more of an interest in youth sports, and they ask me what I did to get my son engaged in the game on the field. I always point out a few things that I did with him that seemed to help.
Some Kids Just Are Not Interested in Youth Sports
One thing that is obvious when my son is practicing or playing with him team is that there are some kids that simply are not into it, and probably never will be. If your child would always rather be doing something besides running around the field or catching ground balls, then you might be out of luck.
I'm certainly not a child psychologist and I do not have a house full of kids, but here are some things I have done to engage my son in sports.
Explain the Game to Your Kids
Learning a new game is a confusing experience for a young kid. Other kids running around, coaches giving constant instruction, parents yelling encouragement (hopefully), and umpires and referees scowling in official looking uniforms.
On top of that, there are all sorts of rules to learn. If a young player does not understand the rules or even the goal of the game they are playing it can be difficult for them to get motivated or know what to do on the field. Why throw the ball to first base if they don't understand the importance of outs, or even what an out is?
I have seen kids start to have so much more fun at youth sports once they simply understand how the game is played. When that deer in the headlights look leaves their face, and they know what to do with the ball they start to become more confident and enjoy the time they spend on the field or on the court so much more.
Explaining a sport takes a little time, but there are several ways to do it that are fun and enjoyable for everyone.
Watch a Game on TV
The easiest way that I have found to help a child learn the rules of a game is to watch the sport on television together. Watching on TV allows for your kid to ask questions about the rules and object of the sport. It also lets them see the sport being played at a high level and helps them see the right plays made most of the time. At a typical t-ball game most balls end up going between the infielders legs and throws end up just about anywhere on the field. But by watching a Major League Baseball game, your child can see what they are supposed to do when the ball gets hit their way.
Go to a College or Professional Game Together
Even better than watching a game on TV is going to an actual game together, for all the same reasons that it can be beneficial to watch from your living room. However, you get the added bonus of seeing the players up close and personal which can be inspiring to a young child just learning a sport. Think about the first time you saw how green the grass is on a baseball field or how tall college and NBA basketball players are. That same level of excitement exists today and can help a child become more interested in sports.
Find Time to Play Outside Together
It is one thing for a kid to try to find joy in a sport when they are at their own practice or their own game. It is another thing when the kid can play the game with you at home or at the park. Not only are you there to help reinforce good skills, but kids like to play any kind of game with their parents. When you can combine the fun of playing together with a sport that you hope they become interested in, you could very well be happy with the results.
Find Interesting Ways to Make the Game More Fun Outside
Once you are outside, it can be beneficial and a lot of fun to invent games to play that help your child with their fundamentals. If your son or daughter is anything like my son, then they do not want to go out and just play catch or shoot free throws. I have had to create games that work on those things. One of our favorites is a game called Hit the Bucket. I can't claim to have invented this game since I remember playing it as a kid, but my son loves to play. We turn a bucket on its side, stand about 10 feet away with a baseball and practice throwing the ball into the bucket. If the throw is successful then we go back a few feet until we are about 50 feet away. The first one to make the throw from that distance is the winner.
There are ways to do this with just about every sport. If you have a competitive kid then before you know it they will be practicing their fundamentals without even knowing it. Hopefully that can lead to more excitement for the sport as they progress to become better players.
Make a Point to Comment on Success
It doesn't matter what the job, positive reinforcement breeds confidence and more joy and interest in what you are doing. This is especially true with kids trying out a new sport. At practice or games, make sure to encourage them when they do something good. I'm not saying never to correct bad play, but give them a reason to come back with a smile on their face the next time they play, and your child will be more likely to be interested in youth sports.