Youth sports are exceptionally great at a variety of things, from developing a player's skill to teaching important life lessons. However, that doesn't mean that the system is perfect! In fact, since the parents are the ones making all the decisions, they are also the ones making the biggest mistakes when it comes to how they involve their children in the world of youth sports.
1. Only involving their child in one sport.
Sure, the argument can be made that by narrowing a child's sports career to just one sport it allows them to become better at that specific sport, possibly leading to a scholarship or professional career.
To be candid, this is a terrible thought process.
Youth sports should be thought of similarly to how a school works. There are different classes, some you enjoy more than others but all of them create variety in the lessons learned. If your child is only playing soccer and skipping out on baseball, hockey, basketball, lacrosse, etc., they are missing out on a majority of new learning environments, possible friendships, and coaching experiences.
They are also put in a position where an overuse injury is much more likely to occur due to constant repetition of the same muscle groups. Emotional burnout is a more likely outcome as well, even in some of the brightest young athletes.
All in all, it is a much healthier decision to involve your children in more than one sport than to try and "specialize" them.
2. Choosing a team based on the size of the program.
Choosing what team your child plays on should be taken seriously - you are about to send your child for 6 months or more on a 3-day-a-week (at least) venture.
Whatever team they end up on is going to teach them important life lessons and undoubtedly form some key friendships.
So many parents choose what club or team to put their child on simply because of how many other people are already involved. Every family is different and should take an adequate amount of time to study the different options. This way you can choose the best fit for you and your child, regardless of how many players a certain club or team has.
3. Choosing a team based on their record.
The following is a common myth: "That team has the most wins out of anybody, they definitely have the best coaches for my child."
Just because a team has a winning record does not mean it will be a good fit for your child. In fact, just because a team has a winning record doesn't mean it has the best coaches at all. Especially in the case of youth sports.
Oftentimes youth programs forget the fact that youth sports should specialize in development and teaching life lessons. Not winning. Some of the best youth coaches in the world will have losing records, because they focus on teaching the correct fundamentals and developing technical skills rather than figuring out how to outplay the opponent each week.
Winning does not matter as much as developing the individual players at this age.
This is not to say that having a winning record is a bad thing. It certainly isn't. Just don't choose a program to involve your child in based solely on how often they win versus lose.
So what should you do?
The best ways to avoid making these mistakes are by signing your children up for more than one sport, and always taking the time to make a smart decision of what team to put them on.
Who is the coach of the team? What is his or her coaching style? Where is it located? Will my kid have friends on the team? What is the team's reputation?
These are all important questions to ask for each sports program you involve your child in. If you can answer all of these questions and happily come to a decision, you are setting your child up for a healthy youth sports experience.