This is Part 3 of a 6-part series What Your Child’s Sports Coach Wants You to Know, sponsored by TeamSnap, a company that does its very best to give parents, coaches, and teams a tool that will facilitate clear and consistent communication.
The transformation of kids from pre-elementary through gradeschool, is mind-boggling. This metamorphisis is also seen as a child plays middle school sports. Now, sports parents also face the mine field of youth sports mixed with peer pressure, friend drama, and hormonal changes.
As your child enters middle school, the game changes–and it stays the same. It becomes more competitive and skilled athletes become more serious about their game. But the one constant is fun and growth.
I’ve asked several middle school coaches to share with sports parents thoughts that help you and your child can navigate middle school sports.
“We Still Want Your Child to Have Fun”
I want to give kids a positive athletic experience and so I teach them what fun is within the context of a competitive team setting. To put it simply, fun is being good – good at what we do, good in our behavior, good in how we treat others, good in how we practice and play. Scott Rosberg, basketball.
“Your Child is not a Robot”
Kids will have good and bad games, make great plays and big mistakes. It’s all part of the learning process – so please be patient. Their emotions are sometimes hard to control. We will be as calm as possible with them and help them learn how to deal with teammates and stressful game situations. When they step out onto the ice, with body checking involved, they are very aware that no one can help them. This is something that is totally theirs. What they need most from you is support and encouragement. Karl Norton, ice hockey.
“Your Child is Learning the True Meaning of Being a Teammate”
My goal is to prepare the girls for their future high school tryouts and teams. To teach them how to make mistakes and keep a positive attitude, to be disciplined and challenge themselves, and to learn what it means to be part of a team. Your child will come to you anytime they are struggling (if they aren’t playing well, not getting their way, think something isn’t fair, etc.). Please use these opportunities to help them grow as an athlete and as an individual. These difficulties are all part of the process of learning how to play on a team and learning how to be a good teammate. This is an age where everyone wants to feel included, gossip is common and feelings can easily get hurt. Please set the example and put a stop to any negative talk about teammates immediately. Melissa Miehlke, volleyball.
“Your Child Should Learn the Importance of Working Hard”
Kids who put more time in to learning, working, and playing their games have a much better chance at success at their sport and a much better chance of enjoying their sport. While not all kids will become the next LeBron James, Alex Morgan, or Tom Brady, the only way to improve is to put time and effort into practicing and playing. The kids who put in the most time usually end up being the better-skilled players. Scott Rosberg, basketball.
“Your Child Should Be Taking Responsibility”
I expect athletes to begin taking more responsibility. Many of them have smartphones and email so I include them on the emails and it is their responsibility to know when and where practices are. At this age, it should be a collaboration between parents and athletes to stay informed. I also expect them to take more responsibility for their learning; they should be doing at least 60-90 minutes of practice on their own. And because this is the age when kids begin to drop out of sports, I focus even more on intrinsic motivation, yet still reward the team from time to time with ice cream or popsicles because….well…. they are still kids. Valeri Garcia, softball.
“Equal Playing Time is No Longer Automatic”
All kids will play. However, they will not play an equal amount of time. The more-skilled players will play more, as long as they come to practice, work hard, and are great teammates. There are only 60 minutes to go around for 5 positions in a basketball game, so it gets really hard to have a competitive team if we split those 60 minutes evenly between 12 kids. However, we will get all kids at least 3 or 4 minutes of playing time per half. Scott Rosberg, basketball.
“Not All Middle Schoolers are Created Equal”
There are a variety of factors that will affect your child’s performance in her/his sports career. At this age, natural ability and physical maturity play a huge role in how well s/he performs. However, those are things they have very little control over, they will only take them so far, and other kids will eventually catch up. What they have control over that can really help them are their effort, their attitude, and their commitment to improve. Scott Rosberg, basketball.
“Recognize That Your Parental Role is Changing”
I strive to create a competitive environment allowing kids to compete for opportunity and promote a culture that builds strong men/women, as well as develop a child’s sport specific acumen. This is the age when you can expect your athletes to begin to understand what TEAM means. You should also expect them to develop relevant coping skills to deal with loss and adversity. Your mom and dad roles are beginning to change as you move away from a parent coached model, and with that comes some unforeseen obstacles. Tony Schuster, baseball.
“Here’s How You Can Best Help Your Middle School Athlete…”
Help your child “control the controllables.” Help him focus on the process, which they can control–practice, working, paying attention, being coachable, being a great teammate–instead of outcomes, which they can’t–scoreboard, missing a scoring opportunity, not playing much or well. When they have success, reward them with a comment like, “Great job at finishing strong. All that work that you put in is paying off!” and “Way to hang tough and keep a great attitude when things were getting rough out there. You have really become someone your teammates can count on!” When they struggle, focus more on perseverance or some other quality that helps them to deal with adversity. Scott Rosberg, basketball.
“It’s OK if Your Child Chooses Not to Play Sports Anymore”
Kids in middle school are trying to find themselves and may be pushing the boundaries…athletically, personally, and academically. They may have a new interest in how they dress, who their friends are, what type of music they like, and what they like to do as hobbies/activities. As a result, their interests and commitment to the sport may change. Please allow them to make these changes as long as it’s responsible and safe. If they are not the little girls that want to play college softball anymore, that’s okay. If they want to try a new sport or activity, let them as long as they fulfill their commitment for the remainder of the season. Valeri Garcia, softball.
In Middle School Sports, The Process Continues
Middle school sports parents, remember that the scoreboard only says so much. Your child is still learning and sometimes that is a painfully slow process. Your patience and persistence are required if you want to see your child enjoy and grow through the youth sports journey.
This post is sponsored by TeamSnap, who wants to help you focus on making your child’s youth sports experience a positive one. Their online team management makes your sports parenting job a lot easier!