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Helping Your Child Have a Successful, Enjoyable First Sports Experience

By Jessa McClure

I suspect that a pink-clad character in a popular book series was part of the reason she chose it, but my little one was suddenly obsessed with soccer. She was kicking every ball we owned, pointing out soccer balls in cartoons and soon began begging to play.

As a parent entering my child in a sport for the first time, I had lots of questions and concerns. Here are some tips for preparing for that first sports experience courtesy of Curtis Harris, sports director for the Doris Miller Family YMCA in Waco.

1. You don't have to know it all
Many parents might be concerned about their level of sports familiarity when entering their child in an organized sport.  But the sports director said, ‘kids and parents don't have to have prior knowledge of a sport before signing up." Harris said, "They learn as they go."

2. Introduce your child to the sport
Before practices begin, try going out to a park or your backyard and practicing the sport he or she will be playing. You don't have to know all of the rules. Just get outside and move around. Not only will it give your child a chance to get familiar with their new sport, but it will also give you a chance to bond over his or her new interest.

3. Focus on having fun
Every parent wants their child to succeed and it can be tempting to put an emphasis on winning. But, the YMCA sports director said it is important to down-play the win/lose aspect of the game, especially with very young children.

"Stress that it is all about having fun," Harris said. "They're here to learn and have fun. They will learn to appreciate winning and accept losing throughout the season."

Harris also said that the YMCA in particular focuses on equal playing time as a part of their "just have fun" philosophy. This gives every child on the team a chance to experience the sport and feel a sense of accomplishment.

4. Be there for your child
The weather in Texas is unpredictable and can be brutally hot in the spring and summer. Even if sitting outside at the ballpark or soccer field isn't your idea of fun, it is important that your child know you're there to support them.

"Try to be at all of their activities and help out where you can," Harris said. "There are even opportunities for parents to coach and serve the team in that way."

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