The Benefits of Backyard Play
Gary Simmons, author of “Gymbag Wisdom,” and a sports performance specialist who concentrates on teens, has some interesting anecdotes to share about the athletes he works with in high school.
The top players he deals with are not the ones who play on traveling teams. They’re not necessarily the ones who spend all their time playing on more than one formal team year-round, he says.
“No, the top players,” he says, “Are the ones who, in addition to playing on organized teams, often play in the park, the backyard or the local gym with their friends and neighbors–without parents or coaches instructing them.”
And just what is it about playing with friends in informal settings that allows kids to excel?
Kids who’ve spent a lot of time playing with friends are generally quicker on their feet and more coordinated, he says. What they also have—and this is key—higher levels of “exuberance,” says Simmons. As a result, they learn skills more quickly.
The teen athletes he sees who’ve experienced a lot of structured sports and traveling teams are often burnt out, he says. They’re less exuberant and don’t push themselves as hard.
“You can be a 12-year-old state champion tennis player and give 70% in practice,” he says. “The kids who are behind you skill wise–but are moving faster and trying harder–are more likely to excel at their skill.”
These kids who move faster and work harder–those who’ve had experience being competitive without the expectations of adults placed on them–often do well in competition when they’re placed in more structured settings.
In short, fun, unstructured play with friends can boost a young athletes’ mental game and performance.
It’s not always easy, in our world of structured activities, to find a place where kids can play around together….
One option, Simmons says, is to structure some unstructured play. That means parents might gather up the kids in their neighborhood and organize a weekly game of ball. But once the game is organized, the parents should step back and let the kids play.
Here at Kids’ Sports Psychology, we think parents and kids need to strike a delicate balance between structured play and unstructured play. Kids need some instruction to master skills, but they also need the enthusiasm, freedom, and passion required to be great players.
With enthusiasm and passion, which often are based on the fun of unstructured play, kids are more likely to play freely and creatively and take more risks. That means they’ll keep growing, learning and excelling. Kids who are burnt out or who lack enthusiasm for what they’re doing often just go through the motions. They’re less likely to excel.
Listen to half of the interview using the player below:
Want to learn more about how you can improve your sports parenting skills and boost your kids’ enjoyment and success in sports? Check out Kids’ Sports Psychology. Exclusive members can download our interview with Simmons here:
Full Interview with Sports Performance Specialist Gary Simmons
What’s more, at Kids’ Sports Psychology, you’ll gain access to eBooks, additional interviews with youth sports experts, videos, articles, questions-and-answers and more.
At Kids’ Sports Psychology, you learn about perfectionism in sports, the value of accepting mistakes, how to boost kids’ confidence, how to help kids focus—and much more!
Here’s what folks are saying about our resources:
“Hi Lisa and Patrick, I would to thank-you for answering my question in regards to my son. The resources that you have available on your website have been wonderful. I am slowly learning [and hopefully] in time that a sound mental game may be more important then the actual physical part of the sport that your child plays.”
Help your kids make the most of their sports experience!
Kid’s Sports Psychology Membership
P.S. Exclusive KSP members, be sure to check out our interview with Simmons. Learn why he says kids should be left alone to figure out some skills on their own:
Full Interview with Sports Performance Specialist Gary Simmons
Help Your Young Athletes Improve Focus In Sports!
Are your young athletes easily distracted by people shouting on the sidelines? Do they obsess over their mistakes? Do they worry about what people think of them?
These issues will cause their concentration and performance to suffer!
The Focused Sports Kid helps kids overcome distractions that can hurt their performance in sports.
This is a 7-day program for sports parents and kids to discover secrets to helping young athletes improve focus and concentration!
The Focused Sports Kid program is actually two programs: one for sports parents/coaches that provides mental game tips especially designed for parents and coaches, and for young athletes, ages 8 to 12, that will walk them through 7 simple lessons in mental focus in sports.
What are parents and coaches saying?
“I read your report and prepared a one-page summary for my team. I asked the team to attend a 10am training session on Saturday before the final on Sunday. (I told parents) they must obtain the one-page summary handout from me and ask a parent to read it to them until they understood what it meant…My boys succeeded! We beat a team that no one could beat during the year, that was coached by a former professional player that had sons of former Professional players in the team and as a result of believing in themselves, they won. In my humble opinion , I look beyond the game and hope the kids have learned a lesson in life that you really can do almost anything if you put your mind to it. We salute you and the wonderful work you do.”
~Anthony (Tony) Costa, coach
“We just completed the first ten tips, it has helped tremendously for (our daughter) and us. We’ve learned to keep our behavior and comments in check. She’s letting mistakes happen and not worrying about them, she’s now just moves on to the next play with the same attitude as before the mistakes. She’s playing more aggressively all game. Her coach even mentioned that whatever we are doing, keep doing because it’s working.”
~Scott, Sports Dad
Help Young Athletes Overcome Perfectionist Challenges in Sports!
Sports Parents’ Top Dilemma: Helping Young Athletes Kick Perfectionism And Fear of Failure will walk you through the problem and arm you with practical solutions.
The Sports Parents’ Top Dilemma is a two part program. It includes:
- A 23 page E-book that identifies the challenge, explains why it is harmful to young athletes and gives step-by-stop sports psychology tips for helping kids.
- A 21 page kids’ sports psychology workbook that is intended to help you kids identify beliefs and expectations that are the root of perfectionism.
Now you can learn how to help young athletes overcome the difficult cycle of perfectionism, fear of failure and loss of confidence!
What are parents saying?
“My wife and I immediately applied your tips and luckily we got a fast response. Our 16-year-old daughter reads like a case study for lack of confidence. She matches the profile your e-book describes: high technical ability and successful in soccer practice but looks like she forgets how to play in games!”
~Glenn G. New Jersey
“After listening to a couple of your podcasts and reading your “10 tips to confidence in youth sports,” most of the challenges you make note of apply to my 14-year-old son. He’s got all the physical ability, but the more mistakes he makes, the worse it seems to get. So reading and listening to your information has been so helpful and validates what I have observed in him for the past few months. Thank you so much!”
~Brenda Felder, Everett, WA