A football coach and father of two, Jahsh Ruzzman would like nothing more than to see parents encouraging their children to play sports regularly, whether in a formal instructional setting or simply making time for outdoor games as a family.
“I know kids who have grown up in sports, as well as others who haven’t, and the difference is often drastic,” says Jahsh. “I firmly believe that sports can help kids develop confidence, perseverance, and resilience.”
Here’s what parents should bear in mind when it comes to finding a sport for your child:
#1 Sports is for everyone.
“Kids can learn life skills from sports that they will carry with them in whatever they choose to pursue. The initial goal of making sports a part of your child’s life should not be to raise an Olympian or elite-level athlete, but to reap the physical, mental, and emotional benefits of sports through active participation at any level.”
#2 Focus on process and performance, not outcomes.
“It’s not about winning, but whether your child is doing the right things to the best of his or her ability. Also, kids should want to get better at what they’re doing over time. If you sense your kids are frustrated that their Frisbee isn’t travelling far enough, show them how you do it, and ask them to give your method a try. When kids are trying out a new technique, always ask them if the change has helped bring about improvement, and get them to verbalise what they feel has improved. Avoid leading questions such as, ‘You can see that my way is better, right?’ Let kids draw their own conclusions. Most important, reduce emphasis on the outcome, which in sports, usually equates to winning. You can play your best game and still lose, but playing your best game is what counts.”
#3 Frustration and failure are learning opportunities.
“In Singapore, the concept of the ‘growth mindset’ is catching on. It’s hard to bring this to life in every setting, but in sports, you will encounter frustration and failure at every turn, and if you keep at it with the right mindset, you will find ways to overcome this. Learning not to fear failure and realising that you need to try—and try different methods—to get the performance that you want is something powerful for a child. Once this mentality is ingrained in children, you may see this attitude prevailing when they are navigating heuristics for a math problem, or trying to improve on a composition. The benefits are not confined to sports alone.”
#4 Fun is essential.
“Whatever you do in life, there has to be an element of enjoyment to it. Think about it: If you associate something with bad experiences or negative emotions, what are the odds you’d be up at the crack of dawn excited and raring to have another go? The same applies to kids; they need to have fun, and they know it. Fun can serve as a stimulus to promote learning and development.”
#5 Try everything.
“In this day and age, kids are able to gain access to a variety of sports. Primary schools now offer CCAs such as sailing, bowling, and cricket, just to name a few. So, how should one choose? I let my kids choose their interests, and try as best as I can to support, encourage, and motivate them along the way. I believe the child ought to decide. But, parents may ask, what if children change their minds? There are exceptions, and parents may disagree on this, but it’s necessary to give our children space to have a change of heart. Life is a journey with twists and turns, and there will be lessons we need to learn, unlearn, and relearn. Hence there will also be decisions we’ll need to rethink, rework, and maybe rescind. As for when a child should begin specialising in a sport, the answer for me is simple: When the child thinks he or she wants to.”
#6 Choose wisely.
“Three things. First, always enquire about a trial lesson, because it doesn’t hurt to see the session in action for yourself. Second, always check with your child if he or she enjoyed the session—this is a must for things to work out. Third, let your child have a say in the decision-making process—it’s empowering and shows that you value his or her opinions and choices.”
#7 Respect teamwork.
“It’s important for you and your child to realise that it takes teamwork to make things click, even in individual pursuits. Parents, coaches, supporters, peers, and even adversaries—for without them there would be no basis for competition—all play a part in developing an individual in sports. If kids are introduced to the concept of interdependence, they will begin to see the part that they play in achieving the goals of the sport, and this may translate to better problem-solving and self-managing skills. This doesn’t just apply to team sports—boxing is a fine example of an individual pursuit hinged on the delicate relationship between the fighter and his or her trainer.”
#8 Create your own unique experiences.
“If parents don’t have the time or budget to sign up for organised classes, just get out there and do something fun. Go for walks around the neighbourhood. Play in the rain. Jump in puddles. Run around on a muddy field without worrying about shoes and clothes getting dirty. Then add a ball, or any other inanimate object. Race each other to reach it first. Make up some rules—better still, get the kids to make up some rules. Win some, lose some. Live a little, laugh a little. And… love a little more.”
#9 Focus on growth.
“This applies to sports, as well as life. A growth mindset is not difficult to cultivate. I think of it as such: Believe in doing the right things, as well as doing things right. Find the strength of will to do these things to the best of your ability. Keep it going.”