Vashon campaigners seek to raise awareness of the benefits of youth sports

Scott Rice, center, coaches Calder Stenn, left, and Josh Philip at “futsal” (indoor soccer) at the McMurray Middle School gym. - Courtesy photo
Scott Rice, center, coaches Calder Stenn, left, and Josh Philip at “futsal” (indoor soccer) at the McMurray Middle School gym.
— image credit: Courtesy photo

There’s an effort afoot on Vashon to broaden discussion about effective attitudes towards youth sports, and raise awareness about how kids benefit from competition and age-appropriate skill development.

Greg Martin, youth athletics coach and Vashon Island Soccer Club board president, is spearheading the campaign to expand dialogue about the importance of youth sports.

Martin wants to encourage examination of ongoing problems in kids’ sports, such as misguided notions about competition and well-meaning but unproductive methods in sports instruction. Martin also seeks to advance action towards solutions, such as reviewing emerging research on brain development in children, and using that information for coaching, parenting and organizational development. 

Ideally, a good coach combines a tough competitive drive with the desire to help kids develop at the right levels.

“Challenging and positive approaches to teaching youth sports help kids stay engaged and focused, and strengthen their love of sports,” said Martin.

Like parents and teachers, a coach affects the way a child learns, and influences a kid’s ability to master new material on and off the fields — with outcomes reaching far into the future.

A successful approach will inspire resilience and a love of learning.

Sports provide fundamental building blocks in a child’s education and help keep them physically fit. Research shows that kids involved in sports maintain stronger connections to their schools, peers and community — sports help children make friends and be part of something greater than themselves.

Sports keep kids occupied while building skills that extend beyond fields and courts. They learn sportsmanship and goal-setting. Students involved in sports maintain higher grades, commit fewer crimes, use fewer drugs and have fewer teen pregnancies.

Coaches with the right priorities help children become capable athletes and good kids. In the coming months, coaches, parents and athletes will weigh in on successes and pitfalls in youth sports, and show how adults involved in kids’ athletics can make sure kids have a safe place to succeed, fail and bounce back.

“I would like to bring useful information to parents so they can understand how to manage the team competition and get excited about involving kids in team sports,” Martin said.

“I would like to share info with people on how to do it right without learning the hard way,” he added. “I want parents to understand the benefits their kids can expect, and how to identify good coaching — and good sideline parenting — and to provide information to all coaches, myself included, on how to do it better.”

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