Hudson Valley Parent

HVP August 2018

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Page 26 of 39 n Hudson Valley Parent 27 coaches frequently encounter. "The parent is focused on his or her child and that's natural and understandable. But sometimes their child isn't going to play or get as many minutes and the parent has to understand that participation and progress on the team has to be earned." Thomas has a code of conduct he expects his players, parents and coaches to follow. "Be respectful of the game, be respectful to your opponent and to our program." He recalls a situation at a volleyball competition against Penn State. No one saw which player had touched the ball before it went out of bounds. "The ref couldn't give a call on the play, having not seen it clearly. Then the player came forward and said she'd touched it last. She went and told the ref. She didn't have to do it, she did it because it was the right thing to do." The opposing coach gave him a nod in recognition of the girl's good sportsmanship. "Winning is not everything, being a good person will take you further in life than anything on the court," Thomas says. Kevin Byrket, director of operations, Orange County Sports Club in Florida, oversees youth athletic programs that range from training to competitive levels. Over 600 kids participate in the club's activities such as fencing, gymnastics and martial arts. "The most important aspects - more important than performance - is to build character, to respect each other, to communicate with each other, and to have pride and passion in what you do and proceed with trust and integrity," Byrket says. He spends extra time with his young athletes, talking about how to properly compete. "It's important to have interaction with their coaches and also cheer each other on." A positive experience "The all-around emphasis is on creating a positive energy with constant reinforcement, to help the athlete engage in the activity and be in the moment," Byrket says, adding that it's important to give praise for participation as well as any successes. For parents, he advises, "Consider, is my child happy from the experience and does he or she want to come back?" "Participation in sports should be an energizing experience and one that leaves kids feeling good about themselves, empowered and that builds confidence," Byrket says. "Pay attention to the little things that happen. What they have conquered is a huge boost to that athlete." The physical aspect of a child's development is an important part of his or her education, Byrket says, and something that will give value to the rest of their lives. Formalize your goals Kate Nematollahi, director of education programs at the National Alliance for Youth Sports recently issued a challenge to parents and youth sports organizations to formalize their sportsmanship goals. "Sportsmanship is one of those terms that we all know but probably would explain differently if asked. I like this definition: Sportsmanship is the behaviors and attitudes in sport that show fairness, respect for one's opponent and grace in winning or losing." She urges those involved to get specific about their goals and lays out how to do it in a blog post entitled "Will you accept my sportsmanship challenge?" at "I feel sportsmanship is the key to unlocking the many benefits of sports. With coaches, parents, and athletes demonstrating good sportsmanship, we lose the overzealous behavior and we make a more welcome environment for children to practice and master a sport they love." Olivia L. Lawrence is an editor for a news organization and spends her free time outdoors. As sports and teen coordinator at the YMCA of Middletown, Shawn Thomas insists that winning isn't the most important thing. Developing the character of the player is most important. He encourages his athletes to always try their best.

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