Editors Note: This blog is part of a special series on dads which originally ran in 2012. Because it is timeless we are sharing it again.
Being the father of an athlete is a challenging yet rewarding role. We decided at MomsTEAM to designate June as National Sports Dads Month and all month long have been hearing from a fascinating range of men about what they have learned as sports dads, what their kids have learned, and, if they could change anything about today's youth sports, what it would be.
Today, we hear from longtime youth sports fitness expert and instructor, David Kittner:
MomsTEAM: Were you an athlete and what sports did you play as a youth (under 19)?
Kittner: Growing up I was involved in many sports/activities, including organized sports, free play and neighborhood pick-up sports. Looking back now it seems we were playing all the time from dawn to dusk. I grew up in a small town, so our choice of organized sports was far and few between. Prior to high school I played hockey in the winter and softball in the summer. Golf was another sport/activity I was very passionate about and played it often throughout the summer months. Organized sports were a lot less professional than they are today, which I'm grateful for. There was no overlapping of sports as there is now, and in the summer months the ice was removed from the rink and hockey wasn't thought of again until fall. During the winter months we also participated in a great number of hockey games on the ponds and frozen fields of the Ottawa Valley where I grew up.
We had plenty of free time outside of organized sports to engage in neighborhood pickup games and activities. We had sports in school, but, then again, they were limited. Upon entering high school, more sport opportunities became available. I participated in varsity football and wrestling during my high school years in addition to intramural sports.
MomsTEAM; What is the most rewarding aspect of being a sports dad?
Kittner: Having a daughter and a son in organized sports has given me the opportunity to become a sports dad. Participating in sports for my kids was always on their own accord and I pretty much followed their lead. They were encouraged to play various sports year round. It was great watching them be active, have fun, make new friends and learn new skills they might not have otherwise had the chance to learn. We also spent a lot of time playing in the fields and parks where we live, whether it was playing at the playground, kicking a ball around an open field or running base paths on a baseball diamond. When it came to free play my children took the lead; after all, it was their world I was in, not mine.
MomsTEAM: What lesson has your sports active child taught you?
Kittner: As a sports dad I learned that kids play sports to have fun and to be with their friends more than anything else. My kids played sports for themselves and always had the option to stop playing or to try something else. They were at no time a source of my entertainment. That doesn't mean I didn't enjoy watching them play or practice, but my life didn't hang in the balance over a win or a loss or how they played. We never had chats afterwards to analyse the game. I always asked one question: "Did you have fun?
MomsTEAM: What is the most important lesson your child is learning from his/her sport?
Kittner: This question I posed to my children now 19 and 15. They found it a tough one to answer. My son's first response was "How not to coach." WOW! I'm a big believer that kids learn many things from youth sports, both on a conscious level and subconscious level. From the way they were spoken to, the way they were coached at practices and games, from the role models they were exposed to by other adults involved with the team etc. After some probing, my son went on to say he learned about teamwork and how to get along with his teammates.
MomsTEAM: If you could "flip a switch" and change one thing about the culture of youth sports what would it be?
Kittner: There's a lot I would change in youth sports. The one change I would make if I could "flip a switch" would be to change the attitudes of the adults involved. Adults, including league administrators, coaches and parents, need to remember the game is for the kids. Youth sports are not an opportunity for adults to make up for opportunities missed when they were kids. With a shift in attitudes the professionalism and seriousness adults bring to the game would be left at home, or better yet, not exist at all. The game would become more about fun and age appropriate long-term development as opposed to the win-at-all-costs attitude that now exists. With kids having more fun and learning more fundamental skills, kids would continue to play longer then they currently playing, suffer fewer injuries over time and develop healthy habits that they would carry with them into adulthood.
MomsTEAM: Brag a little: what have you done to make sports better for kids? Please share.
Kittner: I've been involved with kids and youth sports for 20 years. My time spent as a dad, youth sport coach, elementary teacher, physical education teacher, volunteer with the Mississauga Youth Games, Big Brothers Big Sisters, and in my work as Youth Fitness Guy, have provided me with many opportunities to work with kids, coaches, teachers and parents on many levels. I continually make time to educate and spread the word, both on-line and off-line, about the importance of kids having fun and enjoying what they're doing in so far as youth sports and physical activity are concerned.
My life's purpose is to improve the life of children through their youth sport experiences and help them to instill a lifelong love of physical activity and healthy living. From the feedback I've received over the years from parents, teachers and coaches I know firsthand I do make a difference in the lives of children, and I wouldn't want to have it any other way.
David Kittner, a/k/a the Youth Fitness Guy, is a passionate, caring and dedicated individual with over 20 years experience working with children. He truly understands the unique sciences associated with child development and the practical means by which those must be applied to any fitness or sport-based venture.
David is among the leading authorities of more than 2,500 Youth Fitness Specialists that make up the International Youth Conditioning Association, the premier international authority with respect to athletic development and youth-participant-based conditioning.
David is a contributing author to the bestselling book, The Definitive Guide to Youth Athletic Strength, Conditioning and Performance. He is certified as a Youth Fitness Specialist, Youth Speed and Agility Specialist, and a Youth Nutrition Specialist with the International Youth Conditioning Association.
David conducts athletic development sessions, workshops and clinics for youth athletes, parents, teachers and coaches, and presents at Fitness and Physical Education conferences. He also serves as Education Director for SchoolFit, School Accounts Manager for Keystone Fitness, Youth Fitness Specialist and Master Trainer for Lebert Fitness and Youth Strength and Conditioning Coach for the Fitness Nation.
To request an interview or to get in touch with David, please contact him by phone at: 647-504-7638 or by e-mail at: firstname.lastname@example.org. Here are the other places on the web you can find David: www.YouthFitnessGuy.com, www.facebook.com/YouthFitnessGuy, www.pinterest.com/YouthFitnessGuy, and www.youtube.com/YouthFitnessGuy. You can also follow David on Twitter @YouthFitnessGuy.