Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Becoming a Good Sport

My son is just 12 days shy of his 5th birthday. For those of you without children, here's a translation:

He is a confident force to be reckoned with!

Really and truly, he wants to be a super hero when he grows up. If that doesn't pan out, he's sure that he will be "the best Globe Trotter EVER!" (despite the fact that his current basketball skill is that he knows what a basketball is). He assures me that he is a faster runner than me (despite the fact that he begs me to slow down so he can catch up when I'm running and he's biking with me) and asserts on a daily basis that he will always be older than his sister (which is, in fact, true).

Unfortunately hurt feelings can accompany all of this young confidence. He's starting to discover that other people's athletic skills are a bit more fine tuned than his and that hitting a ball with a bat is harder than it looks (even with a tee)! This makes my job as his mom a bit more challenging this summer than I thought it would be.

Thankfully I have some good stuff in my arsenal.

1. YMCA Rookie Sports Camp - My son spent the first week out of school at the soccer/t-ball rookie camp. I was thrilled that the core value they promoted all week was Sportsmanship. In addition to working on dribbling, catching, hitting (and running in the right direction), the group of 4-8 year olds learned how to encourage one another and celebrate success without being arrogant.
2. Books that promote kindness and acceptance of others - Now that he's reading independently more regularly, we're reading books together and discussing them the first time through. Then he rereads them on his own. After we read them again as a family (with little sister!) I have him tell me something the main character learned in the story. This often leads to an age-appropriate discussion about if/when he faces that situation what he can do. Where's Your Smile, Crocodile? by Claire Freedman was a good one we read last week that showed the importance of helping others. I was also happy to discover an Early Reader that chronicled a pair of friends who struggled with competition: Cork & Fuzz: Good Sports by Dori Chaconas. And you'll notice the new book Nico & Lola: Kindness shared between a boy and a dog by Meggan Hill in the photo below.

3. Family Runs/Rides - I DO want my son to feel confident, but I want him to feel good about specific things he can do (not just what he *thinks* he can do!). So even though when he rides his bike while I run it makes my runs s-l-o-w-e-r, I know this won't always be the case. To build his confidence as a rider, I'm using the time to cheer for him when he's doing well with detailed compliments: "Wow! When you steer straight like that, you can go farther faster!" or "I noticed how smoothly you took that turn!" These become part of our reports to his dad at dinner time and then we set a skill focus/goal for the next bike outing. Of course, riding on the tag-along on the back of Dad's bike during our family trail rides is great, too.

4. Water Balloons - Good ol' "Catch" isn't a favorite at our house (i.e., we have strong reading skills, but need to work more on hand-eye coordination!), so now we're working to make it fun and game-like so he can be successful when he plays a bit more seriously with kids at school or the playground. Water balloons are great for this on these warm summer days.

This last summer before he heads off to Kindergarten promises to be one of growth for all of us. I'm glad that fun can be at the base of all of it!
How about YOU? What do you do to help your children strike a healthy confidence balance? What's in your fun/learning parenting kit?


Mel -Tall Mom on the Run said...

Those are some great kiddos are pretty little 3 1/2 and 17 months...but what I try to do with the older one is to always help him to focus on the things he did well. I can see his tendency to go toward the "I can't do it" and I NEVER let him go down that path. We pump him up in every way we can.

Thanks for this post!! Giveaway on my Blog today. Have a great weekend!

Coach Pickles said...

Very insightful post. The rhetoric of the importance of sportsmanship or how it applies to situations lacking it is often the extent of the focus of the topic. Often, there is very little said on how to teach it to beginner athletes. Yours is a great insight on how- to.

At Jelly Bean Sports, our business is developing beginner athletes. They don't understand sportsmanship, we accept that. There is a foundational approach we take, however, that prepares kids for sports and its ethical side, sportsmanship.

As the company Founder and Chief Fun Officer, I knew it was important that kids learn more than just sports or sports jargon in our sports classes. We pride ourselves on introducing kids to sports in a way that makes them "coachable" while making learning fun. A survey of 628 coaches from every level of sports found they want three things in an athlete. 1. A positive attitude, 2. A passion for the game, 3. Be coachable. We all can recognize the first two qualities fairly easily but it is the third, coachability, that is the keystone to creating a solid sports foundation that includes sportsmanship.

Children must actively listen, communicate, reason, build motor skills and sports skills. When young children learn it all in a way that makes learning fun, they build passion. Learning made fun is also how they remember what they have learned. The skills listed are what coaches and you as parents need to focus on with children, especially in the early years of sports. If you have questions on how to do so e-mail me and I'd be glad to help.

Making kids coachable makes it easier to manage their kid-tendencies in constructive ways. When the idea of making kids "coachable" is embraced you, as we do, can help children better exhibit the self-control necessary to embrace sports, sportsmanship and life.

Great post and some very proactive and kid-friendly ideas.

All the best,

Coach Pickles

Black Knight said...

Interesting post, it brings me in the past when my children was kids. Now they are grown and I am grandpa. Thank you.

Beth said...

Excellent ideas on this post! I am a newish mom (son is 8 mos) and a former teacher. As a teacher, I was reflective on what I was doing in the classroom and how it affected the students; tweaking lessons/curriculum as needed for the different levels of student need. As a mom, I'm only starting to be reflective in how I am raising my son. For instance, even though I would LOVE to catch up on TiVo some days, it's best for me and my son to get out and do something every day. I want to instill in him a love of being active and exploration but I also want to create a balance for that with his current needs. And in between all that, I have to remember to not become neurotic when his other friends are hitting milestones... I have to remember that my son will do things in his own time and that is very difficult for a teacher/parent to do! Great reading... thanks!

Meg Runs said...

OMG, your words about your son made me laugh out loud. My son used to ride his bike with his head down, watching the front wheel and then all of a sudden, he'd almost crash into "whatever" was infront of him at the time; elderly walkers, another bike, dog, sibling...and we'd have to shout out his name quickly to avoid an accicdent!

Tomorrow, if you can believe this, he and I are heading up to Northern California for his college orientation. He STILL rides his bike a bike messenger and yes, he's had one serious accident that has caused him to be super careful!

Keep running for your sanity and for FUN!

P.S. I'm also a kindergarten teacher so I can really relate to your stories!

sian said...

we love your site and this post so much we had to add it to our high fives today!