If you watch a youth sports game, you'll usually see one or two players who look like future stars. The rest of the kids may not be as gifted. But as long as they're having fun, and they're learning sportsmanship, discipline, respect and responsibility, experts say they'll learn to be winners on and off the field.
The enthusiasm at a recent soccer game was easy to detect. "Okay girls that was a great two quarters," said Richard Burson, as he prepared his Laurel Sharks for the second half of their district game. "We're only down one goal right. So we've got to score, don't we?," Burson asked. And all the girls responded with a loud yes.
Burson's team is made up of girls under the age of eight. He said, "All we want to do is continue to develop their skills and keep them interested in the game." As the second half started, the Sharks trailed by a goal.
Their parents were caught up in the excitement. "Oooh," Kellee Smith yelled, as a shot headed toward the goal. "Good shot Ariel. Good shot. Way to go." Kellee Smith is Ann Christian Smith's mom. "Ann Christian loves playing," she said. "She just loves soccer. And so it's just real exciting for me to watch her excel at something she loves. And just run up and down the field. She loves it."
In game one of the tournament, Ann Christian and her Laurel teammates played the Long Beach Shooting Stars.
On an adjacent field, Singing River's team took on the South Mississippi Soccer Club. Singing River is coached by Rick Schroeder. "Go get it, go get it, that a way," Schroeder bellowed from the sidelines. The coach has a simple philosophy. "These are eight year old kids," he said. "And I want them to have a good time and not really get hurt."
Meagan Hamm plays for coach Rick Schroeder. Hamm knows she has a famous soccer name. "I keep telling my mom I'm going to be the next Mia Hamm," she said. Just like professional soccer star Mia Hamm, Meagan scored a goal.
On field one, Ann Christian also scored. Unfortunately, the eight year old's kick went in the wrong net. Moments after the miscue, her coach became a teacher. "Acie, Acie," coach Burson said, using Ann Christian's nickname. "We never kick the ball like that in front of our goal, okay. Always kick it to the sides."
On the sidelines, Acie's mom felt her daughter's pain. "It didn't really so much devastate me," she said. "But the look on her face, and she knew she did something wrong. Now I'm worried that she's kind of a wreck."
After the game, Acie had a big smile on her face. She had already forgotten her miscue. She understood what the game was all about. "It was that we did a lot of teamwork," Acie said. "And we had fun."
Dr. Dennis Phillips says that's how it should be for young kids just starting out in youth sports. According to the USM professor, "Teaching people how to win and lose can be done maybe better than any other way on the sports field. But it has to be positively and they have to be shown that it's not the end of the world, that we'll live to come back and improve and learn from it another day."
Dr. Phillips believes the consequences of a youth sports game should be a secondary concern. Priority number one is to make sure the kids learn basic skills. And they have a good time.
If you have a kid who plays a sport down here, you know that once in awhile, a parent or a coach may get a bit too emotional about the game. Tuesday night on WLOX News at 6:00, we'll watch kids play sports through the eyes of adults.