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Top 10 Tips For Helping Youth Athletes Learn How to Play for 'More Than the Score'

Recent government statistics confirm that about 72%(about 40 million) of youth in America are involved in some form of team or individual sport. That’s a lot of kids and a ton of resources that are dedicated each year to youth athletics! There is much to celebrate in those numbers. Sports activity can bring about incredible physical benefits, positive social outcomes, and a lifetime of character development. So, how can parents and coaches get the best out of the game and for the development of their children?

Check out Pat’s Top 10 Tips for Parents and Coaches to Focus on making the game about 'More Than the Score.'

Parenting and coaching are tough business! It can be a grind. Be encouraged and take hope, as I stand on the “other side” of more than two decades of leading my family through the exhilarating gauntlet of various levels of athletics. Here’s the promise: if you utilize sports for their highest and best use, that is, to help children develop character, you’ll find a blessing on the other side, too!

  1. Get Your “Why” Right!

    Asking ourselves the question, "Why are my kids involved in sports?" is key to their athletic experiences and outcomes. If your "why" is focused on making your kid into the next Tiger Woods, a D1 scholarship offer, or a millionaire professional athlete, you run an incredible risk of forcing an outcome that your child will reject. Our “why” should focus on building character and virtue and allow the “by-product” of that development to lead where their talents will take them.

  2. Dream with Them, Not for Them

    One of the coolest things we get to do, as parents, is to dream with our children! What do they want to become? How do we come alongside and bless them? And, how do we stay out of the way and not make our dreams, their dreams?

  3. Having the Right Perspective is HUGE!

    The right perspective is a key element to having a successful journey or an outcome that could be destructive to our children’s overall development. What do you see when a parent, coach or institution is focused on “winning at all costs?” Yep, you see a mess! Let’s focus on teaching our kids how to win with grace, lose with dignity, and learn in every circumstance how to treat others with honor and respect. You will be very happy with that outcome!

  4. The Game Belongs to the Kids

    More often in recent years, we see examples of parent-fans hijacking the game through poor behavior. As a PCA Coach or Parent, we “get-to” set the example and model how to respect the game and who it belongs to…the kids!



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  1. Are you an Asset or a Liability?

    As a select baseball coach for the past 21 years, I am seeing a disturbing trend. More and more parents are getting in the way of their kid’s athletic success. If you are a “Lawnmower” or “Helicopter” parent, who is intent on creating the path for their children, your kids will lose in a competitive environment. Stop it! If you want to be an asset, allow your children to fail and then encourage them to get tougher, learn from mistakes and persevere. These virtues will benefit them for a lifetime!

  2. Three Laws of Sowing & Reaping

    You get what you plant. If you want “gritty” kids, plant the grit seeds of endurance, hard work and discipline.
    You get it later than you plant it. Plant now, reap later…and keep watering! You get more than you plant. One great seed might yield hundreds of kernels. One great leader can impact hundreds of people! Are you planting the character seeds of great leadership?

  3. What are You Planting

    There is a great ancient story, called the “Parable of the Talents.” The gist of the story is that three people are given various “talents.” Two of them increased their talents and the third “buried” his talent. Upon the master’s return, the two who increased their talents were given more and the third was condemned. In my experiences, I have seen many young people with talent waste it away, due to poor choices. I have also seen some with less talent work extremely hard and earn their way toward more rewards. Coaches love those players “who do more with less.” They inspire their teammates.

  4. Focus on the Process

    Anything good that lasts did not happen by chance. Most sports related success can be tied to repetition of a movement that produces a desired outcome. Teaching our kids to be disciplined to a process will help them find success on the field and off!

  5. Celebrate the Rainfall and the Sunshine

    My sons love how we processed a lost game. It usually included ice cream, shaved ice or their favorite restaurant. It was a chance to get their minds off the game. We would do the same after big wins. We always celebrated competition regardless of the outcomes.

  6. Check Your Scores!

    Time to get brave. Have you ever asked your kids how you are doing as their parent or coach? Go ahead, get a score (1-10). Every summer, I ask my players individually and as a team, “On a 1-10 scale, how am I doing as your coach?” And, then I ask, “What can I do to be a better Coach?” I can’t grow it, if I don’t know it! Feedback and accountability have been my greatest teacher and I hope it is yours.