Everything You Need To Know About Teens and Sports

High school has started for teens all over the country, and parents and teens are grappling with all sorts of issues around playing team sports.
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High school has started for teens all over the country, and parents and teens are grappling with all sorts of issues around playing team sports. I know parents deal with all sorts of questions ranging from "should I call the coach?" to "should I let my kid quit the team?" when the teen is unhappy.

Since school has just started and issues around team sports are bound to crop up, I decided to enlist the help of Dan Madieros in my effort to answer these questions. He has coached boys' and girls' sports for 15+ years. I, on the other hand, have listened to the concerns of parents in my therapy office and when on the bleachers watching my own child play softball.

Today I will focus on the most frequent questions parents have. Feel free to send along any other questions that may come up for you as the season progresses.

1. What are team sports good for? Kids learn a number of valuable skills including:
  • How to function as a member of a group.
  • Realizing that other kids need you and depend on you.
  • Commitment.
  • Good sportsmanship. They learn how to be both good winners AND good losers.

All of these skills are valuable not only when playing sports, but also in any community setting including family, school and work situations. Hey, we all love good team players.

2. What does a GOOD coach do?
  • A good coach is fair and steers away from simply playing favorites.
  • S/he works on teaching players skills rather than simply pointing out their weaknesses.
  • A good coach encourages collaboration and discourages bullying and exclusion.
  • S/he motivates by enthusiasm and a sense of fun rather than by fear and verbal bullying.
3. What does a LESS THAN IDEAL COACH act like?
  • The less than ideal coach benches the weaker players and does not give them an opportunity to play.
  • S/he does not act as a teacher and kids don't learn necessary skills.
  • That sort of coach encourages bullying by either modeling bullying or creating an atmosphere of favorites and popularity. We know what that leads to-kids feeling excluded and left out.
4. Should you call the couch if there is a problem?
  • First, go to some games and observe what is going on.
  • If the coach is not great, see if you can help your kids learn to deal with the coach effectively, because in life, we all have to learn to deal with difficult people, right?
  • If the coach's behavior is so egregious according to you and other parents then you may want to see if whoever the coach is accountable to can address matters. This may be the head of the league or someone in the school athletic department.
5. Should you switch your kid to a new team if they are complaining about the coach?
  • Not so fast here. There are usually at least two coaches and perhaps your child will get along with one better than the other.
  • We also don't want to teach our kids that they can leave any situation that is difficult and inadvertently raise avoidant kids.
  • Unless the situation is dreadful, I am fully in favor of encouraging your kid to stick it out for the season. They have made a commitment to their team members.
6. What else do your coaches want you to know?
  • Please let them be the coach at the game. You can be the coach at home.
  • Please don't yell at or criticize the umpires, coaches or kids during the game. This will be very unsettling for the kids and adults.
  • Model good sportsmanship. Yes these are competitive sports but it's not always about winning or losing. It's about how you play the game. You've heard that before and with good reason.

Good luck. I hope all of your kids are having fun and learning a the same time.

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