Keep Sports Fun for Kids

Keeping Sports Fun for Kids. Mia Hamm says to tell your kids, -I love watching you play-. Regardless of the sport they participate in, always make it fun!

I am standing on the sideline, waiting for my daughter, Capri, to play in her first soccer game. I am so excited. But it is freeeezing cold outside. Luckily I put some extra clothes on Capri, but not enough. She’s miserable. Not to mention it is only 10:00 am and she’s NOT a morning person. Plus we have a doubleheader. We’ve had two practices prior to this game and these kids are still not sure how to play many sports, let alone soccer.

My hands stay in my pockets so that I can’t pick off another piece of skin from around my nails. I watch as Capri tries to run after the ball but gets sucked into the swarm of 7 other kids on the field. And then she gets even colder and frustrated. She stands on the field and cries. I felt frustrated. Embarrassed. Like, why is MY kid the one crying? She was so excited to play yesterday! I wanted to watch her score a goal during her first soccer game, but instead she just wants to sit on the bench and cries about wanting to go home. My blood was boiling inside.

I Can’t Be THAT Parent

Our eyes meet. She knows I’m not thrilled. I tell her that I know it is cold outside but she needs to run around to warm up. She doesn’t even listen. I thank God that these games are short. We had time before the next game started so we ran to the car to warm up and get a snack. She was 100% better, a total different person, and was ready to play in the second game.

She ran to the ball, kicked it around, even tried to shoot it a couple times – but no goals. Regardless, I loved watching her play. And she was so happy after the game. She said it was FUN!

Sports Need to be Fun

Since the age of 4, I played soccer. I loved it. Everything about it. It didn’t seem like a “workout” or “exercise” to me. I wanted to hang out with my friends and kick the ball around. I wasn’t a goal scorer. Although there was that one game when my dad said if I could score three goals he’d buy me ice cream after the game. You better believe I did score three goals!

But I am now living vicariously through my soccer playing daughter. My parents didn’t know the first thing about soccer when I started to play. Bless my first soccer coach as he had to go to the library (GASP!) to borrow a book about the rules. We were all clueless but somehow we figured it out. And I played until my junior year in high school when I got hurt. I’ll spare you the details.

Keeping Sports Fun for Kids. Mia Hamm says to tell your kids, -I love watching you play-. Regardless of the sport they participate in, always make it fun! (1)

Sport Parents are Different Now

I don’t mean to brag, but unlike my parents, I KNOW soccer. I have been trying to teach my daughter the ins and outs of how to play since she could walk. Cam is following in her footsteps too! I have always told myself that I would not, no…could not…ever be their soccer coach because I need and want someone else to teach them in a different way than I do at home.

So when she decided she was going to play in the second game, of course I was proud. The smile was probably a mile wide on my face. But I didn’t want to be THAT parent who coached from the sidelines, who the other parents were annoyed with because her daughter can actually dribble the ball and shoot…it doesn’t go in but hey, she tried! The coach from the other team even came over and told her and another girl she is friends with that they played really well. Little did he know that this was her first soccer game!

Success Versus Fun

You’ve read the stories about parents yelling and screaming at the players/coaches/refs/other parents during or because of a game. I feel like my generation of parents were brought up a bit different when it came to sports versus our parents.

Don’t get me wrong. I know my parents “played” organized sports. Although there wasn’t much for girls back then. But there just wasn’t the pressure on children then as there is now to succeed in sports. I think it is because the parents of today grew up playing the sports that our children are starting to play now. We know how to play, we know the rules, and we can see the field in a different perspective than those who didn’t play.

However, sports parents of today have to remember that even though we know the game, our children are still learning and it should be fun. We can help them and guide them through the game, but it isn’t until they get older that they are going to be able to see the field like we do. They are going to run in a pack until they learn to SPREAD OUT (I swear I still hear that in my sleep from my coaching days). But that is all in learning the game.

Remember What it is Truly About

I kept playing soccer because it was fun. There wasn’t any pressure for me to score goals (except for ice cream) and it didn’t matter if we won or lost. Even in high school, no one would talk about playing soccer at some big university. Sure, we had a couple girls play beyond high school, but no further than that.

My goal as a soccer mom is to teach my kids to love the sport and to have fun. Sports allow you an opportunity unlike others to make lifelong friends because if they stick with it, they will be playing with the other kids who stick with it for years. Some of my best childhood memories came from soccer. And I miss playing. My daughter even said to me, “Are you happy that I am playing soccer now so you can play with me?” and the answer was yes. But even if she didn’t want to play soccer, I’d be teaching her to have fun doing whatever it was.

So sports parents, take note from the great Mia Hamm who said to tell your children that you loved watching them play when they step off that field. Don’t worry if Suzy didn’t pass the ball to the right person to score in that open net, or if Billy had a bad game and it cost the team the win. Forget all of that. Focus on the positive. And if the day comes when the fun and the love for the sport isn’t there anymore, then move on. Find something else that your children love to do.

The Choosy Mommy came to life as I began writing for the Choosy Kids (www.choosykids.com) blog from the mom perspective. We also have bloggers who are teachers, nutritionist, pediatricians, dental experts, etc. and I share my two cents on food choices, physical activity, and daily health routines plus so much more! I have a ton to share but didn’t want to take over the Choosy Kids blog so I decided it was best to grow The Choosy Mommy brand.

54 thoughts on “Keep Sports Fun for Kids

  1. robin rue

    Some parents take their kids sports WAY too seriously. It should be fun for them and I don’t know why some parents push their kids so hard.

    • Christine - The Choosy Mommy

      WAAAAAAAAAY too seriously. It’s like they are trying to live vicariously through their kids. Insert eye roll. I just don’t get it. Sure, I love that my daughter is playing soccer and she loves it too. THAT is the important part. If she wasn’t having any fun then we’d finish the season and move on to something else.

  2. Great advice. Sports is so much different now then when my son was smaller. Encouraging words are always the best.

    • Christine - The Choosy Mommy

      Thank you! My daughter gets so happy and thankful when I tell her that I loved watching her play soccer, even if it was just at practice. Encouraging words have to come from everyone, on and off the field.

  3. Great post! You hit the nail on the head with this one. In addition to all of that, I’m starting to see more parents completely dismiss “normal life” with their kids because sports take priority. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all about my kid following through with her commitments to teams and sports, but for the love of god! It’s supposed to be FUN at this age! I’m constantly seeing parents fill up their kids weekends with tournaments and fundraising events. Let them play sports, but also let them have a life outside of sports. It’s supposed to be fun at this age, and there is plenty of time for every weekend, double header, playing well into Sunday night games.

    • Christine - The Choosy Mommy

      UHG…yes. Parents don’t need to be so tough on kids when they are so young. College scouts aren’t going to be looking at them in elementary school! Maybe, and if MAYBE, they are really that good to be playing in college or pros, then sure, I guess you may need to switch gears and focus on sports a little more. But the chances of that happening are like 1 in a million! So parents are better off just letting kids have fun, get their exercise, make new friends, but still stick to school too!

  4. I love this. I was a swimmer, and not so secretly hope my daughter or son wants to do it too one day. I agree that it has to be fun for them though. I remember when I was swimming, there were parents who were just seemingly pushing the kids into a sport that they didn’t really want to do. I loved it, and I will have my kids do whatever it is that they love.

    • Christine - The Choosy Mommy

      YES! This is what I am talking about. You had a love for a sport (like me) and we both want our kids to find that love too! YAY!

  5. Early mornings are the exact reason my girls neither one wanted to play soccer. We are more dancey type folks. lol. My girls both did dance. My youngest is still taking dance. It’s practice twice a week, with one recital at the end of the year.

    • Christine - The Choosy Mommy

      Luckily all of our games aren’t early morning but it has helped us to figure out that she needs a shower to wake up! LOL! I think dance is fabulous and great exercise!

  6. It’s fun to be involved with your children in sports. Our daughter was an ice skater. It was always so nice when a parent from a fellow competitor told Ashley how well she did!

    • Christine - The Choosy Mommy

      Oh ice skating would be fun! And yes, I really like hearing other parents compliment my daughter too.

  7. I definitely think it is so important that it is fun for kids to play sports. Not pressure to do well, not a disappointment if the game is lost or their performance isn’t great, but just plain old fun and love for whatever game it is they are playing. Parents have a huge role in fostering that love and making sure they are not putting pressure on their child and telling them they loved watching them play is a great idea.

    • Christine - The Choosy Mommy

      and it is great exercise! it is getting this kids off of the couch, out of the house and in a new environment with new people.

  8. When I was 7 and 8 years old, I was the only girl on an all boy’s soccer team. And I wasn’t a tomboy. I was pretty horrible at the game. But I thought it was fun and everyone accepted me. I think when kids feel that they need to win, they start getting burnt out from putting too high expectations on themselves. I’m sure your daughter appreciates that you just let her play.

    • Christine - The Choosy Mommy

      I had to play on boys soccer teams very often growing up as there weren’t enough girls to make an all girls team. Like you, the boys on my team accepted me and we never had any issues. It was always the boys on the other team that caused problems.

  9. Elizabeth O.

    Sports are indeed supposed to be fun. It’s a little competitive but for the most part it should be something that our kids enjoy and not feel pressured about.

  10. Kristina

    I agree that sports need to be fun for kids! It can be so rewarding for them and teach them so many things and when we are there showing our support it makes it even more special.

    • Christine - The Choosy Mommy

      YES! Sports lessons go far beyond the field or court. I learned so much from my teammates and coaches too!

  11. kelly reci

    i believe that my son will love sports too when he grew up! he loves to play balls and wheels, and my hubby is very active in sports activty! this is an interesting post!

    • Christine - The Choosy Mommy

      Isn’t it fun to watch the kids grow and see what they really get into?

  12. Sports are supposed to be great fun, I myself have tried in numerous types of sports and I find that I like more individuals sports like gymnastics. It is great to be a little bit competitive but sports are a great way to get your kids to find more friends to have fun with 🙂

    • Christine - The Choosy Mommy

      I have no problem with the individual sports (except that most of the time they are judged and no matter how you think you did, it is up to someone else to decide) but regardless, at least you are out there having fun!

  13. I agree, we can’t allow our kids to feel stressed and pressured when playing their favorite sport. I think it’s not going to do them any good. It’s all about playing and having fun with your teammates.

    • Christine - The Choosy Mommy

      Kids are stressed too much over different things (and life in general) that they need sports as a fun outlet.

  14. My boys don’t really do team sports, they play tennis and golf. I think they find it fun though because we can play as a whole family and I try to put them in group lessons, so that they do get to interact with their friends. They enjoy it and I try not to push them, so that they keep enjoying it.

    • Christine - The Choosy Mommy

      My son (almost 2) is SUPER into golf! That is smart on your part to get them into groups like you do so they do have that “team” atmosphere even if they are solo sports.

  15. The one thing that I could not stand about organized sports were the parents who yelled and yelled at their kids from the stand. They would say things like, “Go get the ball! Quit standing around!” or “That girl (talking about another kid on the team) needs to be taken off the field. She stinks!”
    Now, how much fun do you think a kid is going to have listening to that? Of course, we all want to win, but the idea is to have fun and learn the game, not to be so competitive that no one likes you!

    • Christine - The Choosy Mommy

      Yes, all of the negative talk. Don’t get me wrong. I yell to my daughter to go get the ball, but that is as she is looking at birds in the sky LOL! I don’t mean it to be rude at all. It is more like pay attention!! LOL!

  16. Sports parents can be crazy. Instead of enjoying watching their kids play or encouraging them to have fun, they get crazy. I really don’t understand it. You can have a competitive spirit without taking away the fun from your kids.

    • Christine - The Choosy Mommy

      When I was little, our coaches encouraged us to leave it on the field, meaning when we stepped off the field, then we no longer talked about the game. This needs to happen with parents too.

  17. I remember when my brother played sports. Some of the parents would act insane. My parents chose which sports he would play because of it (Soccer and Basketball). Playing Little League was out of the question because the parents would get into fist fights.

    • Christine - The Choosy Mommy

      Did he want to play little league or did he not care? I can’t imagine! I am going to let my kids try whatever they want. I am not really a huge basketball fan, but right now, both of my kids are into it. I’ll let them give anything a try!

  18. I always had parents who supported me through sports. Succeeding as well as making it fun was something they did very well at.

    • Christine - The Choosy Mommy

      That is awesome that your parents had your back and were super supportive. I wish I saw more parents like that!

  19. Annemarie LeBlanc

    My children actively participated in sports when they were young. Now that they are grown only one of them stuck with his sport. He does baseball and swimming. My kids learned the value of team work and determination. They did not win every game, but they learned to pick themselves up and move forward to the next.

  20. Jeanine

    Sports are great for kids and should be fun. Parents can support the kids instead of competing with other parents.

  21. Rosey

    Ice cream is a good incentive. I never thought to offer it for soccer, but pretty sure I’ll do that now. 🙂

  22. Holly

    I had a parent that was part of the yelling crowd. I only played sports to spend time with my friends so that kept it fun.

    • Christine - The Choosy Mommy

      My dad would get really into the games but he more or less made comments to the refs. He would never yell at the players on the field. And he left it on the field. Once we got in the car to go home, that was the end of the discussion about the game. My mom was silent. She always said she was nervous to say anything in case she was wrong lol. Bless her!

  23. Such a great post! 🙂 I can’t wait to be active with my son and see him playing sports.
    I am totally looking forward to it.

    • Christine - The Choosy Mommy

      It is awesome when you get to do something that you both enjoy doing! YAY!

  24. I enrolled my son for soccer at his preschool and he seems to absolutely love it. We often play soccer in our backyard too and I haven’t encountered a a chance yet for me to ask him to be attentive and alert. Will keep this post in mind for that moment 🙂

  25. My eight year old daughter has tried so many different sports and the only thing she has really stuck to is rock climbing, a sport we know nothing about! She is so good at it and it’s been fun learning together. She’s now the youngest on her competitive team.

    • Christine - The Choosy Mommy

      Rock climbing!! That’s freaking AWESOME! How did you/she even learn about that? I bet my kids would enjoy it too. Keep up the good work (both of you)!! 🙂

  26. It is really important to keep sports fun for kids. Despite showing great promise, some kids zero in on the tension and pressure that it brings at a young age, and will rebel against it. I’ve seen it happen a lot.

    • Christine - The Choosy Mommy

      Exactly! We don’t really know how kids will react in situations until they are put into them. That’s why it is better to just have fun!

  27. Keeping sports fun for kids is so important. My older son plays organized basketball and some of the parents really suck the joy out of the sport for their kids.

  28. This is so important but extremely difficult for people like me who are competitive and strong willed. I try not to push too hard or get worked up, but it is easier said than done.

    • Christine - The Choosy Mommy

      I am actually the same way as you and it is really hard. I find myself to be the only one “coaching” my daughter and then I realize it so I close my mouth LOL! It is something hard to learn but I am working on it.

  29. I don’t have kids but my sisters do and they always involve their kids in sports and fun activities. When I have my own kids I will do the same its good to keep them active and also support them in what ever they want to do.

    Awesome post 🙂

    • Christine - The Choosy Mommy

      All good to hear!! Thanks for stopping by!

  30. I will definitely encourage my daughter to engage in sports when she grows up. I believe it’s the best way to integrate fun and discipline. 🙂

    • Christine - The Choosy Mommy

      It’s also a great way to make friends and have them learn from someone else, other than you!

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