With so many youth sports programs adapting or canceling their offerings this year, families across the country are missing much of the time spent together during the athletic season. Fortunately, even though the traditional season may not happen as scheduled, you can still inspire your children to enjoy the benefits of the game.
While some on-field activities may have been called off, families continue to rise to the challenge, hitting the backyard and connecting over their shared love of baseball and softball. This provides numerous benefits, from physical exercise and improved coordination, to bonding time with loved ones and the opportunity for children to learn valuable life lessons.
As the Official Snack of Little League Baseball and Softball since 2013, Lance® is recognizing parents across the country and their role as backyard coaches. With the help of our friends from the Positive Coaching Alliance, Lance is working to inspire parents to keep up the valuable work by providing tips for how to make the best of baseball and softball experiences from the comfort of their homes, and ways to continue to embrace the role of backyard coach to help their children thrive on and off the field.
1. Stay positive and have fun
Nobody can control the current circumstances, so dwelling on the negative doesn’t help anything or anyone. Rather, focus on making backyard activities fun and always keep a positive attitude. While teaching skills, remember that praise is powerful. When your child tries a new skill or does something correctly, celebrate the win, even if it’s small. Praise is more effective than criticism, plus it keeps the activity focused on fun.
2. Be specific with feedback
As the Positive Coaching Alliance recommends, try to be specific with your praise when taking on the role of backyard coach rather than the standard “good jo.” If you’re practicing batting, instead of saying “nice hit” be specific with feedback by saying something like “way to keep your eye on the ball.” When working on catching pop flies, rather than saying “great catch,” you can say, “great hustle and nice job calling the ball.”
3. Emulate the dugout experience
So much of what children learn from and enjoy about sports is the “dugout experience” with their team. In between drills, take a moment to re-create this bonding moment by pausing for a dugout snack like Lance sandwich crackers. Keep that fun going by teaching your little one your favorite sideline cheers or developing a secret handshake that they can pass along to their teammates in the future!
4. Go beyond the game
Playing ball is full of opportunities to teach life lessons, so make sure to relate what your child is learning in the backyard to skills they can use throughout life. This includes courage to try something new, perseverance to keep trying, the strength to deal with success and failures, listening and taking direction, exhibiting good sportsmanship, and so much more.
5. Express admiration and joy
When kids see you having fun and enjoying yourself, they’re more likely to do so themselves. Laugh, play together, share stories, and bond over the love of the game. Whether it’s with a youngster taking her first swing off a tee or a seasoned ball player practicing their drills in hopes of keeping skills sharp, this is quality time spent together.
You can always find a way to celebrate the bond that sports provide families each season and help develop those lifelong lessons that children learn during their Little League experience — no matter if it’s in a huge stadium or on the grass out back. For further ideas on how to be the best backyard coach possible, check out the free resources from the Positive Coaching Alliance at positivecoach.org.