I was naturally an athletic kid and I wanted to try many different sports. When I was younger I played softball, soccer, gymnastics, horse back riding, and eventually I settled on volleyball. Many people laugh when I decided on volleyball because of my height. However, the back row was created for a reason. Of course I was never going to be a middle blocker and I was not upset by that.
Participating in sports at a young age can strengthen the body, but it also develops character. Playing sports can either develop a positive or negative character. Attributes like aggression or stress can be present. However, sportsmanship and leadership can also be attributed to playing sports. It is possible to be competitive and show respect to the other team and the officials.
Coaches of youth sports should be promoting the benefits of participating in sports. Participating in sports should be fun with some challenging elements. Playing sports has shown to improve mental health.
Youth coaches should be promoting a positive mindset in their team. In other words, the team should be inspired and have a good attitude. They should believe that they can win games. Coaches should also develop skill building. Not every player is going to be at the same skill level. It is up to the coach to teach the fundamentals of the sport and give the players the confidence that they can play the position. Coaches should also create a supportive environment. Players should feel comfortable to ask questions and not be afraid of making mistakes. Youth sports are the chance to learn the sport to see if it is something of interest.
I was on a recreational volleyball team before my coach asked me to join his competitive team at the YMCA. The first time I played on the competitive team I was nervous and made silly mistakes. I was running on adrenaline and not focusing on what I needed to do. However, as the years went on my coach became more and more harsh about the mistakes. His goal was to win and while that was fine, belittling his team was not the way to win.
Eventually I quit the team and joined another. This coach was very different from the pervious coach. He focused more on the mental aspect of the game and while he did not like mistakes his go to motto was "how can you make that last play/move better?" He encouraged me to form mental pictures of the ball going over the net when I served, and most of the time it worked.
Still being young and hearing the positive messages helped me. Volleyball was fun, but it was still challenging. I was learning how to place my serve and pass more effectively to run the offense. I was learning how to read the other team and make split-seconds decisions about where I should place the ball.
While those positive messages were given to me when I was younger, they disappeared as I got older and reached the high school level of play. My height became more of a factor and I had to work harder than the other girls on my team because I was looked down upon. However, the mistakes became more relevant and noticed at the high school level. Statistics were taken at the games and we were criticized on our mistakes. The good things we did were not noticed.
I knew playing volleyball was no longer good for my mental health. I dreaded practice and I hated the games. The competitive side of me was gone and I had no interest in continuing. I quit volleyball as a junior in high school and it was THE BEST DECISION I EVER MADE!
I remember telling my parents, "I can either not know what to do with my life and be happy, or play volleyball and be miserable."
While that was something that my parents did not want to hear, it was my decision to quit. However, some kids are not as fortunate.
Parents want their kid(s) to succeed. While that is a good thing, what is the cost? Are kids succeeding at sports, but no longer enjoying the sport? Are they struggling academically and socially because they are so consumed with the expectation of winning?