How sports can help kids with disabilities
In youth sports there are countless "teachable moments" that you can use to improve self-esteem and confidence - both of which can be used beyond the playing field.
Thousands of kids participate in sports each year and most of these kids are able to do so with the luxury of being healthy.
Unfortunately, not every child is free from disabilities, and many other kids are faced with limitations that may hinder their abilities. What can you do to help?
In this article I am using the term "disability" to describe any mental or physical limitation that potentially inhibits a child's ability to compete in youth sports in the same way other kids can.
Obviously the word "disability" can be interpreted in many different ways, so I offer general advice that will need to be uniquely applied to your family's situation.
- First, don't avoid youth sports if at all possible. In my opinion, sport participation can be a wonderful therapeutic tool if used in a safe and responsible manner. Being a part of a team, learning the value of motivation and perseverance, and enjoying the thrill of exciting games are things all kids can experience. In youth sports there are countless "teachable moments" that you can use to improve self-esteem and confidence - both of which can be used beyond the playing field.
- There also are a countless number of athletic skills kids can learn while playing sports that can be used for success in school, social relationships, and every aspect of life. For example, sport skills like setting goals, communicating with coaches and teammates, being on time for practices and games, and making decisions during a game, are all skills that can be used every day.
- Remember, always reinforce and reward the effort, not the final score. If you are paying close attention, there always are moments in a game where you will see your child trying to do his or her best - be sure to overtly discuss these moments immediately after the game. Even if your child doesn't always succeed, you will help shape his or her personality by enhancing their self-esteem and confidence.
- Take great pride in your child every time he goes out to compete. When kids look into the crowd and see their parents excited and cheering them on, you can easily see the impact it has on character development and self-esteem.
- If your child has severe limitations, a traditional sports league may not always be the best option. Fortunately, many athletic organizations nationwide, including the Special Olympics, can provide your child with opportunities to play sports.
Regardless of which sports league your child competes in, the most important thing is that he or she has a fair chance to experience one of the greatest things about being a kid - being involved in youth sports!
Read Dr. Stankovich's new book, Sports Success 360! The book gives coaches, parents and student athletes life strategies for performance and character development.
- When should kids start working out? (October 2009)
- Multiple kids, multiple sports (September 2009)
- How to get kids to try sports (August 2009)
- The do's and don'ts of summer sports (July 2009)
- Failed school levies and athletics (June 2009)
- What is sport sampling? (May 2009)
- How to talk sports with kids (April 2009)
- Your child's team is not a babysitter (March 2009)
- Dealing with pressure (February 2009)
- Does your child have sports burnout? (January 2009)
- Help your child overcome 'choking' (December 2008)
- Help your child see challenges instead of fear (November 2008)
- You've got questions the Sports Doc has answers (October 2008)
- Interview with former gymnast Dayna Goen (September 2008)
- The psychology of injury recovery (August 08)
- Getting into the zone (July 08)
- Embracing the process of youth sports (June 08)
- Help your child handle cuts (May 08)
- Student athletes can positively affect non-athletes (April 08)
- Developing a personal portfolio (March 08)
- Athletes and risk-taking behaviors (February 08)
- Parents' unfulfilled dreams sometimes forced on child (January 08)
- 2007 Sports Doc archive
Dr. Chris Stankovich offers individual athletic counseling and team/league seminars. Read Dr. Stankovich's new book, Sports Success 360. The book gives coaches, parents and student athletes life strategies for performance and character development. Visit drstankovich.com for more details.