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Making the Most of Youth Sports


Sports tryouts can give your kids a chance to show her talent and her personality, try a new activity, or further develop her skills in a favorite sport. But tryouts, themselves, are also an opportunity to help your kid learn about planning, managing jitters, practicing good sportsmanship, and believing in herself. Here are ten ways you can encourage and support your aspiring athlete.


1. Count It Down

Learn, in advance, what’s required to participate. Some sports or clubs require kids to have a physical, even before they try out. Talk to the coaches or organizers about what skills they’ll ask to see the day of tryouts, and help your kid learn and practice a few helpful drills. Know what equipment, if any, your kids need to bring to tryouts—and check to make sure any equipment they have fits and is in good shape. You don’t want to be shopping for new gear with just 2:00 left on the clock!


2. Double Check

The day before tryouts, encourage your kid to make a list, gather her gear, and do a final check to make sure she has everything she needs in one location, packed, and ready to go. Going over her list once more in the morning, over breakfast, will give her somewhere to focus any nervous energy, and she can reassure herself that she has everything she needs.


3. Fuel Wisely

Sports tryouts require a lot of physical and emotional energy, so help your kid fill up on what she’ll need to give it her all: water and wholesome, well-balanced meals and snacks. A good breakfast with whole grain carbohydrates the morning of tryouts will help her feel strong and focused throughout the day. Encourage her to drink water the day before, not just the morning of, tryouts. And a well-balanced dinner with an evening free from junk food will not only prepare her body for the day to come, but it will help her rest well, too.

arrive on time

4. Arrive on Time

Arriving late or unprepared will get your kid noticed for all the wrong reasons. Arriving on time demonstrates respect for the sport, the coaches, the process, and the competition. It also gives your kid the chance to settle in to her surroundings, which can help calm her nerves and make her feel ready do her best. Allow for additional time to check in, gear up, and warm up, too.

warm up

5. Warm Up

Even five minutes of pre-sport activity, like jumping rope, will raise your kid’s heart rate and give her muscles a chance to get loose and ready to move. A simple warm-up routine that includes light cardio and gentle stretches can help prevent injury. A good warm up has the added benefit of discharging any nervous energy or tension your kid may have, giving her a tool to manage any lingering jitters.

Cultivate Confidence

6. Cultivate Confidence

A big part of youth sports is learning new skills, but when your kid has her heart set on making a team or qualifying for an event, worries about what she doesn’t know or skills she hasn’t yet developed can shake her confidence. When that happens, encourage her to list everything she does well and focus on what she knows. Help her work up a mantra—something as simple as “I’m ready,” “I know what to do,” or “I’ve got this” can make a world of difference.

nice quotes

7. Communicate

Being a good teammate is more important than being the star of the show, which is easy to forget in a tryout situation. But make no mistake: coaches assess more than skills and endurance at tryouts. Help your kids understand that every successful team is made of players who have different roles, and tryouts show the coaches what qualities different kids can bring to the team. Encourage your kids to make eye contact with the coaches, speak clearly and loudly when they’re asked to talk, be polite and encouraging to the other kids trying out, and say thank you once their tryout is over.


8. Focus

When it’s go time, your kid may experience an adrenaline surge, making her feel even more excited than usual. That can be a very good thing, or it can be distracting. Help her keep from letting that extra energy get the best of her by preparing her for that burst of excitement, assuring her that it’s normal, and reminding her to show her coaches that her great spirit is matched by her ability to settle in and pay attention.


9. Let the Coaches Coach

One of the most important things you can do to help your kids through tryouts is hand them off. You’ve helped them prepare and have encouraged them to try their best, whatever their best may be. Resist the urge to coach from the sidelines or to offer unsolicited advice or commentary to the coaching staff. You’ll be tagged back in once tryouts are over.


10. Keep It in Perspective

Finally, sportsmanship is not just for game-time. Help your kids understand what it means to be generous and kind, whether in victory or after a disappointment. Remind them that a single success or a single rejection does not determine the entire course of their athletic possibilities—the important thing is that they have fun, stay inspired, and always have the courage to try!


Adapted from Good Sports: Winning, Losing, and Everything in Between by Therese Kauchak, Pleasant Company Publications, 1999; and Go For It! Start Smart, Have Fun, and Stay Inspired in Any Activity, Carrie Anton, ed. American Girl Publishing, 2008. All rights reserved.

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