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Should My Child Play Sports?

Playing youth sports is an excellent way for children and teens to get physically fit, practice teamwork, gain self-confidence, learn life lessons and have fun, but team sports are not an ideal activity for every child.  Knowing whether or not team sports, individual sports or no sports at all is the right choice for their child may be difficult for some parents to ascertain.

Questions to ask yourself before your child becomes involved in youth sports include:  Does my child really want to play?  Is this the right sport for my child?  What do I hope my child will gain from playing youth sports?  Does our family have time for the commitment to the team?  Can I encourage my child through mistakes and growth or will I be critical?

I will address each of these questions in upcoming posts, beginning today with “Does my child really want to play?”

Does Your Child Really Want to Play Sports?

First things first!  Does your child truly want to play sports or are you driving his or her desire to play?  Maybe you played sports as a child and it was an important part of your childhood and how you learned to deal with challenges in life.  It’s true that sports are a great way to learn valuable life lessons.  However, they are not the only way to grow as a person.

If you realize that you are more interested in your child playing sports than your child is ask yourself the following questions:  Why do you want want your child to play sports?  Is it because he or she is asking to play?  Is it because an older sibling is athletic?  Is it because sports are just what your family does?  There is a lot of pressure on children in the latter two types of families.  Are you one of those families?  Think about it.

If you want your child to play sports (or play a particular sport) more than you child really wants to play sports, your child probably should NOT play sports.  He or she will end up feeling pressured and you’ll be disappointed. If your child is meant to play sports he or she WILL develop the interest in some point.

My Child Wants to Play Sports, but I’m Afraid He Will Quit

It’s frustrating to put time and money into an activity for your child just to have him or her quit that activity.  I completely understand that.  But, I think that’s a risk we have to take while we allow our children to figure out who they are and what makes them tick.

From a psychological/personal growth standpoint, it’s perfectly okay for your child to try out a sport for a few weeks and then quit if he or she doesn’t like it.  It’s not going to set into motion some life-long quitter mentality in your child. Relax. It’s no different than trying on a pair of shoes and deciding you don’t like them.

Your child is learning more about him or herself every time he or she “tries on” a new activity.  There are so many things in life that children might dislike but cannot escape that adding sports to that list is simply unnecessary.  Life is too short to waste time on optional activities that you don’t enjoy.

An example from my own life is my oldest two sons and their sports participation.  My oldest lights up over sports.  He has an obvious  passion combined with clear athleticism and talent and it has been evident from the time he first played soccer at four years old.  Over the years I’ve found that if he tells me he doesn’t feel like going to practice, he is probably getting sick.  Otherwise, he’s dressed and half way to the car 15 minutes before it’s time to leave.  He doesn’t complain about working hard, he doesn’t whine about the heat, he doesn’t cry about sore muscles.  He loves playing team sports.

His younger brother, on the other hand, also began playing sports at age four and hated it.  We tried bribing him at first because my husband was his coach and regardless of my son’s participation we had to be at the field. But bribing your child to play does not foster teamwork.  We were doing both my son and his team a disservice by not allowing him to quit the team.

I hate hearing parents joke, “I told him he’d get a dollar every time he scored a goal!”  Fantastic.  That means he’ll spend the entire game either trying to get the ball down the field or court all by himself or he will try to steal the ball from everyone–team mates included.  If you have to bribe your child to get them to participate, it’s time to find another activity.  For my middle son, that activity happens to be anything involving space or dinosaurs.  Quitting sports at age 6 has had no effect on his focus or stick-to-it mentality in other activities now that he’s 12.

My Child Needs the Exercise That Sports Provides, But She Hates Sports

Our attitude about sports in this family is that activities outside of the home are important and should be fun.  Having a fit body is important.  Of equal importance is enjoying the activities you do for physical fitness.  All bodies and minds need activity to be healthy.  Not all bodies and minds were made for competitive sports.  It is very important to honor the purpose for which each body and mind was created.  Do sports honor your child’s purpose?  If not, putting him or her on a team won’t be healthy for him or her or respectful of those on the team who do have the body and mind for sports.

Take some time to consider these questions before moving ahead to sign your child up for sports.  If you and your child have a good feeling about participating in youth sports, move ahead.  Where there is hesitation, however, spend some time in careful consideration.

Check out the other posts in this series:

Should My Child Play Sports? Part II

Should My Child Play Sports?  Part III

Should My Child Play Sports?  Part IV

Should My Child Play Sports

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