Parents and Youth Athletics: Tips From a Coach and Dad

sports image2Will your son or daughter become a professional athlete one day?

I just had a scout tell me my two year old son is going to be a first round draft pick in the year 2030. However, first he is going to have to make it from mite hockey all the way through junior hockey. Back to this in a moment.

Youth athletics can be some of the best years of a child’s life. They’ll make memories, meet new friends and learn values – all positive enhancements in a child’s development.  I have been very fortunate to work in a youth sports environment for the past 12 years.  (I still don’t know what I want to do when I grow up and I wouldn’t change what I do for anything!). I have seen the highs and lows of a child’s development.  My experience in the hockey world translates to youth sports and any youth athletic environment.  Whether it is hockey, baseball, football, dance, or soccer, parents can all have the same positive or negative effect in their child’s athletic development.

Here are my words of wisdom to parents:

  • Do not become the evil of your son or daughter’s youth sport experience.
  • Let them develop the love of the game on their own.
  • Let their coaches teach them the skills they need and let them know that it is okay to make mistakes.
  • Don’t push them or put unnecessary pressure.  It saddens me when I see a player make a mistake on the ice and his eyes immediately glare for his parent’s reaction.  This will not help your child become a better athlete.  It makes them a nervous athlete and has the potential to push him or her away from the sport that they have grown to love.
  • When you are driving in the car after baseball, hockey or soccer practice, make your conversation about the positives that he or she did; reflect  it to the team (if it is a team sport).  Ask them: did you listen to coach when he was correcting you?   Did you have fun today?

My point is this: don’t be a coach – they usually have three of them in a team environment.  Be a parent and listen to them. Let them love what they are doing.

Okay… now back to my son being a first round draft pick. It probably won’t happen, so I think I would rather him develop a passion for a sport that he is interested in and let him see it through. I think I will support him by driving him to his practices, games and tournaments and let him enjoy his teammates. I want him to learn the values of teamwork and what it takes to accomplish a goal as a team.  Children can learn so many lessons from youth athletics that will help them grow and mature. Let’s let them figure it out with our positive guidance and not our negative pressure.

-Authored by Dan Fontas

 ELCM Parent / Coach

Welcome to the 2014-2015 School Year!

2014 staff welcomeThe excitement and rush of the new school year always brings me back to one of my favorite children’s books, “Mrs. Spitzer’s Garden”, written by Edith Pattou and illustrated by Tricia Tusa.  I find the correlation between caring for a garden of flowers and the caring for a classroom of children heartwarming and inspirational.

Mrs. Spitzer is a teacher and, at the start of the school year, she is given a packet of seeds from her principal.  I have always imagined Mrs. Spritzer to be a preschool, pre-k or kindergarten teacher.  Mrs. Spitzer takes special care in preparing her garden.

“She makes sure the soil is right-light and well drained with plenty of room for sprouting”.

Then Mrs. Spitzer plants the seeds.  The start of her school year is spent watering them, feeding them and making sure they get plenty of sunlight. As they sprout and grow she checks them daily for weeds and pests.  At ELCM, our teachers take the first six weeks to plant our classroom garden and watch the children sprout into curious learners.  Classroom routines and rules are established in these early weeks to ensure physical and emotional safety.

As Mrs. Spitzer’s instinctively knows that different plants need different things. She knows some will grow quickly, and some will grow more slowly.  Some are bright and bold while some are silvery and quiet.

“A few are like windflowers and will grow anywhere you put them. And some need gentle care, a special watching over”.

This is the part of the story, which touches the heart of why we teach.  It is all about teaching to the individual.  A good teacher knows who her children are and knows what they need to grow to their fullest potential.  We always say we will take your child where s/he is academically, socially and emotionally, and take them as far as they can go.  Some children may surpass the norm, while others may not, but we must remind ourselves the child’s journey is about individual growth not peer comparisons.

As the seasons pass, Mrs. Spitzer continues to feed and care for her garden.  And then the year is over and her job is done.

“But the plants will keep growing, uncurling their stems, stretching their leaves outward, and showing their faces to the sun”.

The most rewarding moments in my teaching career have been when ELCM graduates return and I witness the continued growth of their individual journey.  It is one of life’s greatest rewards knowing you had a part in their journey.

So, as we prepare our classrooms and get ready to welcome your children into our classrooms, know that every ELCM teacher carries Mrs. Spitzer in her heart.

We are all so excited to watch your children grow throughout this school year and we thank you for entrusting your little sprouts with our wonderful ELCM teachers.


-Authored by Deb Winslow

 ELCM Owner / Teacher


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