Extension Review by Virginia Delvaux Clay County Extension eductor With the arrival of spring-like temperatures, we begin to see more youth participating in physical sports-type activities. Sports can be a fun way for youth to learn skills such as getting along with people, following directions and managing their time. Research has also shown that sports can teach negative values such as poor self-esteem, unsportsman-like conduct and poor social skills.
To promote healthy and positive behaviors within the sports realm, it is important for parents, coaches and community supporters to understand youth development and how it affects youth and sports.
There is no magical age when children are ready to participate in an organized sport. According to the book, Care of the Young Athlete, the readiness process relates to the development of each individual child rather than just the child's age group. Adults must look at each child individually and take into consideration the child's developmental processes and maturation level, as well as the child's prior experiences and motivations to play the sport.
Five questions you can ask yourself are: (1) Does the youth want to play the sport? (2) Can the youth physically meet the demands of the sport? (3) Is the youth able to understand the rules and expectations of the game? (4) Can the youth handle the pressure of the competition? (5) Will sports have a positive impact on the youth? If your answers are yes, then you need to encourage healthy participation in sports activities.
So what motivates youth to participate in sports? Most adults believe that youth participate in sports because they want to win. In reality, the top six reasons that youth gave as to why they wanted to participate was: 1) to have fun; 2) to learn; 3) to improve skills or competence; 4) to be with or make friends; 5) to belong to a team; and 6) to improve health and fitness.
Youth who feel successful are more likely to keep playing the sport. Youth who feel forced to play or who feel incompetent may eventually quit the sport. Adults can play an important role here by encouraging youth to do their best and be accepting of their behavior and attempts.
The South Dakota Cooperative Extension Service is promoting a new program called "Putting Youth Back into Sports." Five educational brochures, ESS 58 � Youth, Communities and Sports, A Winning Combination; ESS 59 � Youth Development and Sports; ESS 60 � Youth Sports and the Developmental Agenda; ESS 61 � Understanding What Youth Want From Sports; and ESS 62 � Cooperation versus Competition, are available at the Clay County Extension Office that share information on how adults can make youth sporting experiences a positive learning experience.
Copies of the above brochures are free of charge. Clay County recently had a team of four adults attend the Youth-In-Sports educational in-service training in Sioux Falls. These individuals are also available to share programming information with local groups that desire more information.