Recently, I accepted a challenge from ResponsibleSports.com and TwitterMoms to answer this question: "As a parent, how do you encourage and reinforce the positive aspects of youth sports?" With the alarming rates of obesity showing up in our children, it is vital that we as parents, among other advocates, ensure our children receive some kind of physical activities via exercises or sports.
It is tempting to feed our children junk food and have them sit in front of the television during the majority of their day when they are not in school or other organized activities such as camps or library activities. By doing this, parents or care takers become the enablers--not improving the situation, but worsening it.
A simple way we can help our children is by becoming active ourselves. If you are not used to being active, it can or may be overwhelming to even start. Take it one step at a time. Children mimic their parents, so if they see their parents enjoying their workouts, chances are their children will feel the same way.
On a personal level, I have enrolled my son in some kind of sport activity once he turned three, the allowable age in our area. (Note: your area may allow a child to start at a different age level, check with your park district or other organizations). His first organized activity was Tae Kwon Do. He took it for two years. However, he began to be bored of it. Instead of forcing him to continue with it, we tried other sports: soccer and swimming. He loves those two sports today, even after 2.5 years of doing them.
It is now our tradition to sign up my son for soccer and swimming every summer, once school is out. My son was deathly afraid of the water to the point the instructor told me to wait til the next year to sign up. Thank God, I didn't listen (don't they say mom knows best?). I sat next to my son near the swimming pool, and I asked him about the cartoon Arthur and how they swim in the pool in the beginning of the show and during the show at times. He felt safe knowing Arthur uses the pool. He told the instructor he was ready to join the class. Since then, he hasn't looked back.
To encourage my son to take part in sports, my husband and I signed up for American Youth Soccer Organization (AYSO). I had originally signed up as a volunteer to help on the sidelines. However, that changed when the administrators contacted me to be a coach for my son's team with them sending me to training. I agreed. My son loved it. He saw me in a different light, while being his mom, I was also his soccer coach. I made the practices fun. This will be my second year as my son's returning coach.
To encourage youth to participate in sports, parents shouldn't over schedule them with activities. This will help in reducing stress and burning out.
You can learn more about responsible sport parenting and coaching at ResponsibleSports.com