Navigating the World of Middle School Sports

Thousands of people are passionate about watching their favorite sports teams to go battle against an opponent. We’ve all cheered on a special team at one point.

But being involved in sports is a whole different ball game and one that leaves a lasting mark. Middle school is a very formative time in our kids’ lives, and children who participate in sports at this age take the lessons learned into adulthood.

I’d like to talk about why it’s good for your kid to play middle school sports, and why it’s good for you, mom and dad, to take the backseat when they’re involved in a competitive team.

Why Playing Sports is Good for Your Middle Schooler

Middle school can be an awkward and challenging time for kids. But it can (and should) also be a really fun time. Participation in sports is packed full of good stuff for kids this age. Here are some of the reasons why I think sports are an important part of a happy middle school equation:

1 – Sports provide a much-needed outlet for stress, hormones, and some of the weird extra energy that middle schoolers often have.

Physical activity is good for everyone. But it’s especially good for kids that are going through puberty, growing at an alarming rate, and experiencing rapid mood swings. Physical activity can help burn off some of that chaos.

2 – Sports help kids learn time management skills.

Middle school can get pretty busy. Between waking up early, extra homework, new friends, and more options for extracurricular activities, schedules can get full. When kids play sports, they have to be able to manage their time well. Often kids do better overall when their minds and bodies a kept a little busy.

3 – Sports teaches valuable life lessons.

Your child will learn the importance of working with others, pushing oneself, and dealing with disappointment, among so many other things.

It doesn’t matter how skilled they are at the sport – being on a team helps kids feel a part of something special and see how their contributions can be a part of something big. These are all things that we adults love to see in our coworkers, and is something we will cherish watching our kid learn.

SEE ALSO: Dating in Middle School?? 4 Ways to Handle Tweens and Romance

4 Ways to Be a Good Parent of a Middle School Athlete

Your role as parent is still vitally important at this age (even if kids start to act like it’s not). Here are some suggestions about how you can best help your child in sports at this age:

1 –  Keep your post-game conversations positive.

Tell your child you love watching them play. This may sound overly simplistic, but it’s important to tell your kids that you love watching them play a sport, have fun, and work hard.

Carrie Ysseldyke of Hudsonville is a parent of a middle school and high school athlete and shared this advice:

“When they have had a bad game or are not feeling great about things, Drew and I never pressure them to talk about it right after.  They are beating themselves up enough.  We might just say, ‘even though you lost or had a bad game, we really enjoyed watching you and your team play.  We appreciated the way you assisted your teammate by ___.’  This usually softens them a little bit, and leads to discussion about a few really good moments for them personally, and the team.

“We often celebrate some of the other teammates’ positive moments too, so they don’t take everything on themselves. It’s important for them to realize that the old saying, ‘There is no I in team,’ is very true. Each individual works toward bettering themselves, but in the end it should be for the greater good.”

2. Allow your child to make mistakes… and let the coach address them.

It’s hard to bite your tongue, especially if your child is playing “your sport.” But unless you are actually the coach for your child’s team, you need to zip it. Don’t try and coach your kid from the sidelines. Don’t bash the coach to the other parents. Your job is to cheer. That’s it.

3. Insist that your child shows respect to his or her coach at ALL times.

This ties in directly to my last point. Even if you disagree with your child’s coach, it is your job to set the right example. Being “coachable” is an important life skill.

This gets to be a tricky one at this age. Some kids are already very involved in some pretty advanced levels of competition (travel baseball, private lessons, USA swimming, etc.)

Several years ago, my husband had a kid on his little league baseball team that regularly tried to argue and refused to do things the way he told him to “because my pitching coach tells me…” And his parents stood behind him 100%. This is a really bad habit to start at a young age. Imagine if we all just told our bosses that they were wrong and weren’t going to do things the way he or she is telling us to?

4. Teach your kids to solve their own problems.

As good parents, we want the best for our kids. If there is a problem, we want to fix it. However, at this age, it’s important that kids learn to solve their own problems. For example, if your kid feels like he is not getting enough playing time, you might be tempted to contact with the coach. DON’T DO IT!

Carrie had this advice to share about problem-solving:

“We encourage our kids to talk to the coaches, rather than having us go in and talk for them if there is an issue of playing time. This way they learn to communicate with the coach and others, which is huge! Drew and I always tell them that we won’t be at college, or at their job someday, so they need to know how to approach people and talk to people, especially when they feel negative or are struggling.  It may just be their perception.”

Again, this is a LIFE SKILL.

So, to wrap it all up…Sign your kid up for sports, behave yourself as a parent, and know that the craziness of middle school will soon pass. Try and enjoy every moment!

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