By Kira Vermond
Lesley Pritchard’s seven-year-old girl, Bronwyn, couldn’t wait to get out on the field the first day of soccer practice last year. After years of watching her older brother, Liam, play, the tiny Vancouver athlete was pumped. At first everything clicked, but as the season wore on, Bronwyn’s enthusiasm over fancy footwork waned. The other girls were outgrowing her and the petite player was getting knocked around. She wanted to call it quits. After mulling it over for months, her mom finally gave in. “I’m not into banging my head against the wall,” she says.
Almost every parent with a child struggling in a sport deals with tears or mumbles of, “I don’t feel like going anymore.” So how can you tell the difference between normal heel-dragging and true lack of fit with an activity? Here’s some advice to bear in mind before throwing in the shin pads.
Keep it in perspective
This is the age when kids are learning balance, agility and coordination, says John Bales, president of the Coaching Association of Canada in Ottawa. “They’re really in a testing phase to find out what they enjoy.” So if they want to quit skating today? Who cares – as long as they try out another sport tomorrow. Of course, there are limits. Consider a ground rule of one sport per season to keep registration bills from piling up.
Cool the competition
Don’t think this is the time to develop the next Nash or Wickenheiser. Most kids aren’t ready to be competitive un-til they’re much older, says Penny Werthner, a sports psychologist in Ottawa and former Olympic track-and- field athlete. “That’s definitely one of the reasons our kids stop doing sports. We make it too competitive too soon,” she says. If you find yourself hollering at your seven-year-old as he labours to make a pass on the ice, it’s time to think about the kind of pressure you’re putting on your child.
Listen to your kids
If your little swimmer suddenly hates lessons, find out why. Perhaps she still loves swimming but needs a new instructor. A good coach makes a sport fun, teaches age-appropriate skills and ensures that everyone feels included, says Werthner. If you have your doubts about a coach’s abilities, be sure to attend practice and watch for clues.
Be a good role model
Parents used to ask Vancouver mom Bryna Kopelow how her kids were always so composed after striking out. “Because that’s what they know I’m looking for,” says Kopelow, now a spokesperson for Action Schools BC, an initiative that encourages physical activity in kids. She says it’s important that parents keep their kids motivated by staying positive themselves. Saying things like, “I really appreciate the way you walked off the field without throwing your bat,” teaches kids a skill as important as how to catch a ball.
KEEP THEM MOVING By Brandie Weikle
Just because your kid isn’t crazy about organized sports doesn’t mean he has to become an Xbox potato. Here are a few ideas to keep him active.
START RUNNING Check out kidsrunning.com for safety pointers, then lace up and begin by running to one telephone pole, walking to the next, and so on. Fun runs abound, so visit kidsrunning.ca to find one near you.
PLAY CATCH The team thing may not have worked out, but your kid may still like the sport. Get out your gloves and toss the ball around, or engage him in an imaginary game of pro football, tackles and play-by-play included.
GET A GROOVE ON If your child loves music, blast the tunes and dance your hearts out. If she’s a hip-hop fan, you may just be able to bust out those old breakdancing moves (your version of the worm will inspire laughter, if nothing else). Got no rhythm? Then consider tobogganing, biking, hide-and-seek, skating, hiking, skipping, rock climbing or swimming at the local wave pool.