You know it’s not hard to exercise with your kids. However, when the demands of time start to work on you, life sometimes arrives at a point where it’s 11:30 pm, you’re trying to fall asleep, and you suddenly realize that yet another day slipped by when you did not get to go for that walk with your daughter or play tennis with your son. And you think, “How can I actually stick to this?”
Some of us need more structure to make exercise happen. I personally need a to-do list to get through my days. That need for structure is why we enroll kids in karate classes and send them to basketball camps.
But what about your exercise needs? You sign your kid up for basketball, but you spend his practice time sitting on an uncomfortable bleacher seat watching the game. I do hope you aren’t spending this time yelling at the coach, because if you are, you are going to love my next proposal: Be the coach.
Youth sports are often in dire need of coaches and assistant coaches. Some recreational teams have 10-15 kids, and not a single adult willing to take charge.
You may be saying, “That is ludicrous, I have no idea how to coach!” I have two answers to that.
- If you have played the sport before at all, you can probably offer more help than you think. For younger kids (in the 5-8 year old range), their focus is on learning the basic rules of the game, like the fact that they have to dribble a basketball instead of carrying in in a football hold and running.
- Be an assistant coach. As an assistant, you can take a tremendous load off the head coach by handling practices, communication with the parents, and better attention to individual athletes.
Maximizing the benefit
In order to get an exercise benefit out of coaching, you will have to participate in the drills yourself! Lead the kids in each activity. Demonstrate proper form for a layup or free throw. If you don’t know proper form, learn it—which requires practice, and therefore, exercise.
Some of the kids on the team won’t be there by choice: they may hate gym class and will only be there because their parents made them come. This is a golden opportunity to change that child’s attitude about sports and make exercise fun.
Encourage the children, keep them on task, find positive aspects of their performance to praise, and tell them what they are doing right every time you correct what they’re doing wrong.
Coaching a team gives you the opportunity to have your child see you in a different light. Having a parent as a coach also changes the child’s role within the team, often making him more of a leader in the group.
The time you spend with your child, getting to know her strengths and weaknesses and the way she interacts in a group, is priceless. It’s not just about the exercise; it’s
about the relationship.
You’ve invested in your child’s understanding of fitness, attitudes about exercise, memories of time spent with you, and your own involvement with recreational sports. And you’ve become a good role model!