You bought the cleats and the water bottle; you wrote the practice times and tournament schedules on the calendar. But before you drop your child at that first soccer, baseball, or track practice, there’s one more thing he or she needs—a direct talk with you about sportsmanship.
Respect the coach: Talk to your child about what this looks and sounds like—listening attentively while coach is giving directions, responding with hustle, thanking the coach at the end of each practice and game.
Encourage teammates: Talented kids often have a low tolerance for their less-coordinated teammates. If your child is a gifted athlete, make sure he or she knows how to say, “That’s OK, you’ll get it next time,” when a teammate makes a mistake. When possible, mention that athleticism is a gift from God—one that not everyone receives—and discuss what other gifts teammates may have.
Tame the language: Some coaches are not adept at controlling bad language, especially among middle-schoolers. Be frank with your child as to what your expectations are, and ask coaches how they plan to handle bad language. Some coaches do not see exclamations of “God” or “Jesus Christ” as offensive—and children need to learn from you what’s wrong with speaking that way.
Sports are a privilege: School and behavior at home take precedence over sports teams. As much as you don’t want to pull your child out of Saturday’s game for missing homework, children who understand that participating in a sport is a privilege will grow to become more responsible.
—by Annemarie Scobey from the pages of At Home with Our Faith, Claretian Publications’ print newsletter for parents on nurturing spirituality in the home. Winner of the 2010 and 2011 General Excellence award from the Catholic Press Association. Here’s a sample issue.
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