Taking the Fun Out of Play
by Jonathon Buzby

Like a lot of youth sports parents I find myself trying to coach my child while we're playing in the backyard. My son wants to play goalie when we play roller hockey. I want him to practice his stick handling skills. He wants to play soccer (a sport he does not play formally). I want to play basketball since he actually belongs to a league. He wants to play whiffle ball. I want him to let me pitch baseballs to him. I try to work on technique. He just wants to have fun. I get stressed out when he doesn't want to listen. He gets upset when I won't stop coaching.

Children need to play and it needs to be fun. If it's not fun they will lose interest. Playing is important at any age. How many of us would play the recreational sports we do (golf, tennis, etc.) if every time we swung the club or racquet someone was correcting our technique.

When your child is not at practice let him/her dictate how to spend time playing (as long as its safe). I asked my son why he plays soccer at recess everyday since it's a sport he does not play in a formal league. His response was, "Because it's fun." At recess there are no coaches, no parents, no officials and no pressure. Kids can make up the teams and the rules to make sure they have fun. The same should happen at home.

If you're wondering why all of a sudden your child does not want to play basketball with you, think back to the last few times you were outside playing together. Did you spend more time coaching than just being a parent? Did you dictate what the two of you would play and how it should be played? If so, you may have taken the fun out of your child's play.

Next time you go outside to play with your child, try to make an honest effort to let your child decide what you'll play and what the rules will be. Don't correct, explain or demonstrate unless you're asked. You might be surprised how much fun you'll have together.

Publishers Note: Jonathan Buzby is the Director of Coaches Education for Special Olympics Delaware and is a volunteer coach for the Western Y.M.C.A. of Newark, Delaware. He has over fifteen years of experience administrating, teaching and coaching children in sports. He has written a book titled, "Coaching Kids: It's More than X's and O's and is a freelance writer for various sports publications. To order a copy of the book for $6.00 (shipping and handling included) contact Kids-n-Sports at: (302) 368-3698 kidsnsports@iname.com