Children's sports can start out as an enjoyable activity and turn into an overly competitive chore that is not fun for far too many kids.
Pointing to the increasing pressure and competition involved in children's athletics, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that parents do not push children to specialize in one sport, at least until they reach adolescence.
Overall, any physical activity is better than watching too much television. Organized sports contribute to physical fitness while developing basic motor skills. In addition, it can help your child with learn leadership skills, self confidence, and the importance of teamwork and sportsmanship. It will also teach them the importance of success and failure.
In making its recommendation, the AAP cited research showing that young children who participate in a variety of athletic activities and delay specializing in a particular sport until adolescence tend to: Have fewer sports-related injuriesBe more consistent performersParticipate in sports for a longer period of time
In some cases, parents pressure their children into playing sports and having a "win at all costs" attitude. This type of pressure, though, takes away the many benefits of participating in an organized sport, like being part of a team, exercising, competing, and having fun.
There are steps that you can take, though, to highlight these benefits:
Instead of having your child specialize in one sport,
encourage him to participate in various sports and/or athletic activities.
Organized, competitive sports for young children can also have its down side.Consider a series of questions to help determine whether your children's athletic activities are beneficial or harmful:
Is the activity fun?Does my child have friends on the sports team or group?Is my child participating because they enjoy doing so?Does my child look forward to going to practice and/or games?Am I pressuring my child to participate in a sport or athletic activity?Am I deriving more enjoyment or fulfillment from my child's athletic activities than my child is?
Here are other tips: While praising your child for and pointing out the benefits of winning, stress the greater importance of simply enjoying the activity.Applaud your child's good efforts.Ask your child if his team won, but only in addition to questions such as: "What was the best part of the practice or game? " or "Did you have fun?"Do not pressure your child. Instead, offer to help your child practice and improve his skills.
Make certain your child's coach and league are creating a safe and enjoyable atmosphere. Ask yourself the following questions: Is the coach putting too much pressure to win on my child and his teammates?
In addition to giving proper athletic training, is the coach teaching
and proper and acceptable behavior?
Is the coach pushing the children beyond the physical limitations appropriate for their age?Does the coach emphasize a team effort by working toward a common goal?Does the coach yell or belittle team members when they make mistakes?
If you discover that a coach or league is violating any of the above ground rules and safeguards, speak to the coach or supervising organization about the problem and, if possible, offer to help. If, after doing so, the problem is not solved, remove your child from the situation and find another team or league.
In addition to coaches,
parents must practice good sportsmanship
and acceptable behavior when watching their children participate in sports and athletic activities.
The American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Sports Medicine and Fitness. Intensive training and sports specialization in young athletes.
Last reviewed October 2013 by Michael Woods, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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