How Parents Make a Huge Impact: As Model Fans
Researchers cannot agree on whether competition helps children develop essential social skills, or if it does nothing more than cause conflict and discrimination. Some say that competition is part of human nature, something that is faced in everyday life. These scholars feel competition helps children learn skills that will be important throughout their lives.
Others contend that cooperation, not competition, is valuable to a positive youth sports experience. Cooperative games are those that encourage children to work together instead of against each other.
More than likely, it is some combination of competition and cooperation that promotes healthy development for children. Competition in itself is not bad. It can serve as a means of social comparison, necessary for adolescents to see how they are unique from others. Taken to the extreme, however, competition can cause individuals to act in ways that are unacceptable and unsportsmanlike.
As one researcher noted, 'the mildest-mannered father or mother may scream like a maniac at the finals of the local soccer tournament.' Most of us, if not all of us, have witnessed similar behavior. We see this type of behavior present from Little League games all the way up to the professional level. The wise adage, 'it's not whether you win or lose, it's how you play the game,' is lost among the intense competition existing in some youth sports programs today.
When coaches and parents teach their kids that winning is everything, the ugliness comes out in everyone. Parents should seek out or establish sport programs that emphasize cooperation and mastery during childhood and youth. A mastery perspective allows the young athlete to accept failures and learn from them, and to focus on improvement and not just on winning.
Competition should be introduced gradually, for several reasons, during this period. First, competition restricts participation; such inactivity is inappropriate for children. Playing a sport is about learning and developing skills, which cannot happen if the young person is sitting on the bench all the time.
Second, competition tends to emphasize the winning instead of the skill learning, creativity and fun. If youth are going to improve their skills and enjoy themselves, they need to focus their energies on the playing and learning of a sport, not on the outcome of winning.
Third, competition can create a high level of anxiety, which can make it quite difficult for youth to learn and have fun.
It increases the likelihood that they will drop out of the sport. By introducing competition gradually, children and youth are able to enjoy themselves while learning. Parents are most visibly supportive in their role as spectators on the sidelines for youth sports.
Of course, parents are excited and want to see their child play. It is important that they keep their emotions under control and set a positive example.
Here are some things for parents to remember:
- Applaud and cheer for everyone on the team, not just your child.
- Avoid insulting other team members and those of the opposing team.
- Talk to the parents of the other team members.
- Be respectful of the officials during the game. After the game, thank the officials.
- Focus on the positive, and compliment players, coaches, and officials.
- Be positive and congratulate the winning team. Do not forget to congratulate the losing team on their efforts.
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