A parents' role in the very early learning sports process

T-ball boy

Three phases outline the very early learning sports process that exists for children 18-29 months old-exploration, familiarization and collaboration.  Parents, you play an instrumental role in this process.  Accordingly, it is good for you to know your role because it exists as something much different than many of you might think.  

Exploration - unsportsmanlike

As our extra pair of hands, you will be gently coaching your child along with us.  No experience necessary.  You just have to follow our lead.  

The best thing to do is not to interfere with your child's exploratory process.  Your child will not offend us, as Coach Performers, when they run off from what we are doing.  In so many ways, this is the whole idea behind the very early learning in sports process, exploration.  

Your role is to gently encourage them to come back to the center; but never feel the need to be overly demanding.  This advice is for both you and for them.  Never feel stressed out about the sports process, very young children, especially, are naturally unsportsmanlike.  In order for them to begin moving towards becoming more sportsmanlike, they first must be more confident and comfortable inside what "they" are doing.  It requires less restraint and more allowances by us, the adults, especially if we expect them to receive the full benefit from the sports exploration experience Jelly Bean Sports provides them.  

Familiarity - the shift begins

After exploring enough, young children get bored.  They then start to desire becoming more familiar with the things we would call normal.  Their exploration led them to become familiar with their surroundings, the equipment and even the odd tick the ventilation system occasionally makes.  Inside the familiarity stage, young children become more interested in how you fit into their experience, other children, the coach and the fun things the coach is doing.  They are not all the way there yet and so you will see them floating in and out of listening and following directions at this stage.  

Very young children are just like us in many ways.  It takes them a while to warm up.  As Coach Performers, it is our job to entice them with things that we know all kids universally love like, for example, bubbles.  

Collaboration - sportsmanlike

Eventually, even very young children, if we are doing our jobs right, can get to the point of looking the part of an athlete.  It is not perfect, they will still have moments of being an explorer from time to time but they do eventually evolve in a more collaborative sense.  

Collaboration is the manifestation of exploration and familiarization.  It is a state where by they have learned over time what sports are for them personally and in doing so they have learned by exploring their environment what sports are not.  This is an exciting time.  Children start to become very excited by the potential for the fun they learned to have at their Jelly Bean class.  What they’ve learned, because we, as adults, have allowed it, is the fun that lies at the heart of their first interpretations of sports.  

The process of moving from explorer to introductory athlete doesn’t happen overnight.  It does however happen sooner and more naturally, if we don’t stand in very young children's way.  Hence my suggestion to be mindful about the idea of changing a very young child’s path inside the classroom.  It is more likely that path they were on to be exactly where they need to go in order to become a more coachable athlete tomorrow.   

See you in class!

Coach Pickles