How not to be that soccer mom

[attach]2119[/attach]It’s a beautiful evening at St. Gregory the Great Catholic Academy. A cool breeze sweeps across the field where two Tim Horton’s Timbit soccer teams are getting set to square off.

The whistle blows and the game begins. Kids run in a frenzied mass after the ball, kicking, passing and shooting.

Four-year old Gianfranco Schirripa runs along with all of them looking to get a foot on the ball. Ten minutes into the game, Gianfranco seeks out his coach.

“I’m hungry,” the young soccer players says. A quick substitution and Gianfranco is free to jog off the field to enjoy some water and Spiderman fruit snacks before rejoining the game.

And no one even bats an eye.

So it’s not quite the FIFA World Cup. But the little ones are all enjoying themselves.

For parents looking to get their children involved in organized sports, there are a few things to be mindful of.

Follow these five steps and your child’s sport’s debut will get off to a smooth start.

Don’t pick and push

Sue Grutta, 42, got her son involved in soccer when he was just three years old. “Soccer was an easy sport to start him off in and he agreed to do it,” she says.

When looking to get your child started in sport, he or she should be brought into the discussion, says Carl Corter, chair of the Atkinson Centre for Society and Child Development.

“We have to make sure it’s what they want and not just what the parents want.”

Corter says opening up a line of communication with your children is one of the best ways to ensure they are enjoying themselves.

Deciding when to continue in a sport or quit should also be left up to the child, Corter says.

“We have to be sensitive of our own goals as parents, but also about what the kids want as well … you can’t push back if it’s not what the child wants.”

Grutta’s son decided to quit soccer at age 14 when, after playing for 11 years, he got bored of the sport.

“It should always be left up to the child, and if they’re not enjoying it anymore you shouldn’t force them to do it,” she says.

Gretchen Kerr, associate dean of the University of Toronto’s faculty of physical education and health, says letting kids experiment with different sports can be a good thing. However, she says when the child wants out, “it is important for the parent to be confident that the disinterest is not a result of a negative sport experience.”

Don’t be a Crazy Coach from the Sidelines

Though some parents may feel obliged to coach from the sidelines, Corter says that’s better left to the coaches.

“Parents should show them their support and be enthusiastic, but the actual comments and criticisms are best left to coaches,” he says. Giving too much feedback defeats the purpose of why parents have their children enrolled in team activities, which is to gain confidence and independence, Corter adds.

Parents should consider what they are hoping to get out of enrolling their child in sports.

“If the goal is the child’s development in general, then they want to give the message … about enjoying the game not about winning. It’s about developing skills and feeling good about it.”

When parents take on an overtly vocal role, Corter says it adds unnecessary pressure and can lead to the child wanting to drop out.

“I think in many instances it gets out of hand and adds pressure to kids’ lives when maybe the sport is their chance to feel good about themselves and develop some feelings of confidence.”

Kerr agrees, saying that parents should avoid sideline coaching at all costs.

“Children appreciate hearing encouraging statements from the sidelines but become confused when hearing instructions from both the coach and the parents.”

[attach]2120[/attach]Expect Road Blocks

Parents should be aware of a few speed bumps they may hit along the way as they decide to get their little ones involved in group sports, Kerr says. She points to commitment of time, finances and energy, emotional ups and downs as well as the physical and psychological demands placed on the child as potential challenges.

Remember What Winning Means

While challenges may arise on the way to your child’s success in organized sports, Kerr says it’s important to remember what winning means to kids. She says for kids, physical improvements, learning how to work on a team, acquiring new skills and being the best you can be defines winning.

To keep kids going in a positive direction Kerr says parents should:

• Be unconditionally supportive and encouraging
• Recognize and reward the child’s personal progress
• Respect the uniqueness of one’s own child

Watch Your Child Grow

After talking with your kids and settling on an activity, the next step is to watch your child blossom.

Grutta says getting her son involved in sports taught him independence, confidence, teamwork and gave him a new circle of friends.

Most importantly though, she says it teaches kids that it’s not all about winning. “There are worse upsets in life than losing a soccer game.”