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How parents ruin sports for kids

Did you watch kids play football or soccer this weekend? You might be ruining sports for your kids without even realizing it. A lot of their attitudes toward the game depends on what you say to the them, on the car ride home.

“You should have done this. You should have done that. Next time do this. Hey, let’s work on this. Hey, when we get home let’s work on that,” says Mike Bergstrom. “My child could have had the greatest game of their life, and what they really wanted to do was hear dad say, ‘I’m so proud of you. There’s nothing I like more than watching you play. I’m so proud of you.’ And I didn’t say that enough.

SelectSoccerBergstrom has coached kids’ sports for 30 years in the Seattle area. Over the decades, he’s seen big changes in the way parents put pressure on kids. The young athletes are not having as much fun as they used to.

“Loses were worse and wins weren’t even as fun anymore,” he says. “If the kid didn’t play well, they weren’t celebrating their own team’s victory. No matter what, if the child didn’t play well, they were going to hear about it on the car ride home, at home. Kids can’t handle that pressure.

Bergstrom has a theory on why parents today are tougher on kids than those of previous generations.

“Not everybody played sports 30, 40, 50 years ago,” he says, “but now it seems like everybody that’s in their 40s played sports, so now we’re all experts.”

Parents are also under more financial pressures, and they’re hopeful their kids will get scholarships. That’s probably not going to happen. If you took 20,000 kids who were 11 years old and filled up Key Arena, about 300 of them would get to play college level sports, and only about four or five of those children would “ever get a taste of any professional level of sport. About 70 percent of kids who participate in sports quit by the time they’re 13 years old.

Bergstrom has advice for what parents should be saying to their kids in his new book The Car Ride Home.

“It’s a privilege to watch your child participate in any activity and we just need to sit there and enjoy it because before you know, they’re gone. They’re grown up,” he says. “Let’s just relax and let kids be kids.”

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