Let’s keep focus on children having fun

Published 6:36 pm Friday, April 19, 2019

Somewhere along the way, a segment of adults has lost sight of keeping the emphasis on the first word in the phrase “youth sports.”

In fairness, there are hundreds of amazing coaches, parents and volunteers who allow these community organizations to have an immeasurable positive impact on countless children.

There are others who probably need to be put in “time out.”

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Temper tantrums, excessive screaming, negative attitudes, poor body language, degrading the opponent and the referees, poor sportsmanship and even cheering when an opposing player gets injured highlight some of the bad behavior that can often be seen from — and on — the sidelines.

And not from the kids, either.

Just last weekend, a basketball coach allegedly assaulted a referee during a youth event in western Kentucky. The referee suffered severe injuries that could have been life threatening.

Although this is the extreme, this case is far from an isolated incident.

Everyone needs to remember the point of youth sports: having fun, developing a child’s skills and helping he or she determine if it is something they want to pursue at higher levels.

Bad experiences have a lasting impact and turn children away from organized sports, robbing them of the many positive benefits that come from being involved.

It is important we all keep things in perspective. This is not the NBA, the NFL, World Cup or Major League Baseball.

No scholarships are getting handed out based on these performances. Lucrative coaching contracts are not up for grabs. Multimillion-dollar shoe deals aren’t in the mix.

Fan support is important; some need to be coached hard but that should never be at the cost of good sportsmanship or setting a good example. Kids need encouraged, but most respond far better to positive reinforcement to build the needed confidence.

Knowing the fundamentals of the game simply isn’t enough. There are right ways and wrong ways to deliver any message. There’s a reason Bobby Knight probably never coached 8-year-olds.

The words and actions of all the adults associated with youth sports — parents, coaches, referees, volunteers — are important because kids feed off of what they see and hear. If the adults aren’t respectful to the game, then the kids won’t be either.

Showing our children how to win — and lose — with character and class is a priceless lesson.

Everyone doesn’t deserve a participation trophy and today’s youth need to understand the importance of working hard for a victory, but competitive fire should never torch having fun and enjoying the sport.

Michael Caldwell is publisher of The Advocate-Messenger and Danville Living Magazine. He can be reached at (859) 759-0095 or by email at mike.caldwell@centralkynews.com.