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Six Lessons Children Should Learn in Youth Sports Programs

By:  Gary Stocker

We have all witnessed to much focus on winning in youth sports.  Parents, friends, coaches, and kids have all contributed to an imperfect focus on the most valuable lessons to learn.  The six lessons I offer below are based on years of first hand observations and practice.

Lesson 1:  Skill Matters    Whether it is math, grammar, music, dance, chess, baseball, basketball, volleyball, or soccer skill does matter.  Not necessarily the perfect implementation of skill, but the ability to learn how to develop skills.

In youth sports, the children are best served when the focus is on developing skills to the best possible level not with winning and perfection.  For example, success in basketball is dribbling properly with both hands and in baseball success can be defined as proper throwing or batting mechanics.  (As part of a team, it is not likely that many children will get enough skill repetitions in team practices to regularly hit the ball and throw strikes.) 

In soccer, we can define success as being in the correct position on the field without adding the unlikely expectation of kicking the ball as part of a pass to a teammate.  For young players in volleyball, for example, we take the approach of teaching the proper hitting mechanics and then tell the children that repetitions will get the serves over the net.

Lesson 2:  Team   The lesson of learning to work well and play well with others is clearly an important one.  But, ask yourself when you last heard a youth sports coach discussing the life-value of being part of a team. 

Skills like organizing, communicating, sharing responsibilities, and leadership are all valuable lessons to integrate into youth team sports.  For example, when we conduct scrimmages, we will award points, goals, or runs when a child exhibits any of these skills.  We stop practice and use the example to teach those team skills.

We teach our young athletes to actively help each other and celebrate that fact when we see it happening.

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