Play On My Team - What can youth sports offer?
Posted on 2/15/18 by Brandon Vanderhoof from Heart of the Valley YMCA

Play On My Team - What can youth sports offer?


The first practice is coming. The excitement and butterflies are at capacity. Who’s on my team? Will I know anyone? What if I’m not good? I’m scared.

In youth sports, kids are faced with a greater challenge than simply playing the sport. Meeting the team, the coaches and the parents can seem like a monumental task to many. These moments can be stressful, but are crucial opportunities for our children to learn more about themselves than we could imagine.

Participating in youth sports is amazing. Throughout the course of a season, kids will grow and develop in far greater lengths than just learning to kick or shoot a ball. Socialization, teamwork and inclusion are the most exciting impact stories that we get the pleasure of experiencing as parents and coaches. You can see this anywhere there is a team getting together and practicing. All the kids show up, a little shy and reserved at first. As they become comfortable and realize they are essentially “just playing,” those fears and preconceived notions vanish. They allow their personalities to shine and begin to connect with their teammates. Without realizing it, they are searching for a new friend, and often within minutes, kids easily begin to connect with each other. It can be anything from finding a similar interest to sharing a funny story.

Play On My Team - What can youth sports offer? (Photo: Submitted by YMCA of the Fox Cities)

As the season progresses, kids will continue to build relationships. They keep talking to and looking for others who have similar interests, and find creative ways to connect with each other. Allowing kids the chance to build these foundational relationships and connections helps them to learn essential life skills. As coaches and parents watch from the sidelines, kids start to form their own ideas and beliefs of how to work together and how to keep everyone involved.

Socialization skills are unique to every child. Attitudes and ideas continuously change as kids play sports. Think of it as a trial and error process. When a child does something in a game they consider bad or wrong, they try to avoid that action and feeling again. Conversely, when they do something good they will crave the feeling they get from the positive feedback. Everyone reacts in their own unique way, and having kids engage in this sort of cultural exposure will resonate with them as they grow up. Sports provide opportunities to socialize and engage with kids whom they might never have had the courage to before.

Play On My Team - What can youth sports offer? (Photo: Submitted by YMCA of the Fox Cities)

When you have kids involved with youth sports, you are introducing them to the concept of teamwork. Ironically enough, this is something many of them have been doing naturally since they were little. The benefit of youth sports is that everyone on the team is working towards the same goal. Kids enjoy the feeling they get from being a part of the team and feeling wanted, and this has an unmeasurable impact on their social development.

In the end, kids might forget what the coaches said, and what happened each week, but they will never forget how being a part of the team made them feel. Being included, working together and just getting to be a kid are the opportunities youth sports provide most. That feeling and excitement stretches far beyond the skills they may have learned. Youth sports offers a foundation of skills to help build a happier and healthier generation of kids.

Ryan Shanklin is the Sports Coordinator at the Appleton YMCA. He received his bachelor’s degree in kinesiology from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. As a referee, coach, fan, parent, mentor and overall sports advocate, he enjoys seeing kids develop and progress, and strives to positively influence the experience that kids have while participating in youth sports.  

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