Media Contact
Rich Batten
Colorado Department of Human Services
303.866.3808
Maggie Spain
The Bawmann Group
303.320.7790

July 5, 2007

Coaching Kids for Life

Denver—July 5, 2007—July marks the height of summer sports and Colorado fathers and their children are teaming up on courts and fields. Whether dads are coaches, assistant coaches, spectators or parents, they play an important role in youth sports. Sports teach kids physical coordination, self-confidence and character. However, recent trends show that coaches and parents can take competition too seriously.

“As coaches, fathers have an opportunity to help children develop physical skills, social competence and character,” said Rich Batten, fatherhood specialist with the Colorado Department of Human Services. “Children who are instilled with a healthy understanding of competition can understand the difference between a sports game and real life.  But parents who put too much pressure on them at an early age may drive them away from sports all together.”

According to the Center for Sports Parenting, the information available on how parents should guide kids through sports is often misleading.  Here are a few common myths:

  1. The younger a child begins a sport the better. In some cases, teams start as early as age five or six.  There is not any scientific evidence that suggests having your child play on a team at a very early age is going to guarantee athletic success down the road. However, many studies show that burnout is a real problem for kids in their early teens. This is common in children who have played a single sport for extended periods of time.
  2. All team coaches are certified instructors, have degrees in physical education or psychology and have a solid background in coaching kids. Coaches do not need any license to work with children. Unlike teachers, who have to be certified by the state in which they work, coaches have no such requirements. This is why is it important for parents to do their research before signing their child up with a coach.
  3. The sooner a child specializes in just one sport the better chance they’ll have at advancing to a higher level. Most of today’s top professional athletes played a variety of sports until they were in their teens. Some coaches will pressure kids to play just one sport. Parents should be wary of this as children can burnout with just one sport. While they’re young, let them try several sports.
  4. A youngster who is a top athlete among his or her peers at eight years old is clearly destined to be a star when they’re 18. There is very little predictive value when it comes to saying an eight-year-old will grow to be a  superior athlete when they’re 18. There are too many factors – the adolescent growth spurt (or lack thereof), the child’s personal motivation and skill level – that might influence how that athlete will develop when it comes to sports.
  5. Sportsmanship is something that can only be taught through a child’s coach. Being a good sport starts at home. Parents should teach their children how to behave not only after a loss, but also after a win. Secondly, during the heat of games, parents must set a positive example of how to behave. Kids watch carefully to see how their parents react in the middle of a game. The coach should be reinforcing good sportsmanship – not teaching it as well.

In October 2006, the Colorado Department of Human Services, Colorado Works Division was awarded a $10 million federal grant over five years to strengthen father/child relationships and improve parenting. Colorado is one of two locations nationwide, including Washington, D.C., to receive this federal grant. The Responsible Fatherhood Initiative has distributed community awards of up to $100,000 each to 19 agencies throughout the state to provide programs and direct services. Applications for additional awards of up to $50,000 are available now through July 16. For more information, please visit www.cdhs.state.co.us/coworks/prf.htm.