It’s suddenly mid-September and like it or not, school and sports are in full swing—with the ensuing changes to our schedules and in some cases, stress levels.

How we as parents approach the sports season has an enormous effect on kids’ attitudes—not only towards sports, but to life as a whole. When we can change our attitudes and behaviors to our kids’ sports, we can help show them strategies that will work in all areas of their lives. According to sports trainer Eric Cressy, these strategies can help create young athletes who are well-mannered and successful, while enjoying their time on the team.

1. Encourage them to play

Sports can be serious business. Kids are working very hard to do their best, so why shouldn’t they be taking it seriously? The problem comes when kids are only moving between school and sports. According to development experts, kids who have more unstructured play time have less stress, better behavior, and do better in school.

2. Make it fun

Sports are supposed to be fun, so do what you can to lighten the mood when the game doesn’t go as expected. Even though the other team won, help your son or daughter find the learning experience in the loss. Overreacting and getting angry at any loss or mistake will kill the fun of the game and may make your child give up the sport.

3. Be there for the game, not the practice

While cheering on the kids during a game is great for everyone, you’re not doing them any favors by sticking around to watch the practices. According to Cressy, kids being watched by their parents during practice are less likely to be outgoing, make new friends, and try things that they wouldn’t otherwise attempt.

4. Have kids play multiple sports

According to a survey by exercise expert Elsbeth Vaino, 82% of the top athletes from the four major sports in the U.S. actually played multiple sports. The reason for this seems to be that diversifying the game can lead to fewer injuries and better all around sportsmanship as kids experience a larger spectrum of the sports landscape.

5. Let your kids demonstrate responsibility

As a parent, that line between doing something for your child and letting her do it for herself can be a fine one. But as kids get older, it’s crucial to let them demonstrate responsibility so that they will grow into well-rounded and yes, responsible adults. Maybe it’s letting them walk to soccer practice on their own when they’re 10. Or maybe it’s letting them schedule their own meetings with college recruiters when they’re 17. Let them take their own steps, always letting them know you’ll be there for them in case they need you.

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