Outward Bound

The 5280 field guide to taking your child’s learning outside of the classroom—and into the world. 

August 2015

—Jan Von Holleben / Trunk Archive

Physical Education

If youth sports teach life lessons, how do we make sure the right message is coming across?

Chances are your little Peyton Manning–jersey-wearing tyke won’t make the roster of a Division I college sports team. We know he or she will try hard, but of the more than 20 million American children ages six to 18 involved in team athletics, only a small percentage move on to NCAA sports. 

And that’s OK, says Fort Collins resident Linda Crum, who’s played and coached Division I volleyball since 1978—including helping coach Ohio State to the Final Four in 1994. Crum is a mother to three girls and the Colorado executive director of the Positive Coaching Alliance, a national nonprofit focused on integrating affirming life lessons into the sporting realm. She helps adults reinforce the most beneficial aspects—such as perseverance, self-confidence, and cooperation—of the games kids love to play. Take a page from her playbook.

Your Car Is Not The Locker Room: The coach has already hashed out the X’s and O’s, so on the way home, just ask your child what she thought of the game and what went well. 

Don’t Specialize Too Soon: Even if your little kicker is the leading scorer, Crum suggests not forcing a toddler to commit to a single sport. “Hands down, college coaches would rather have the multiple-sport athlete because those kids develop in a more all-around fashion,” Crum says.

Focus On Lessons, Not Stats: What was your batting average in sixth grade? You probably can’t remember because it was less impactful than what you learned about teamwork, discipline, and, yes, competition.