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Should Your Child Play Sports?

So far we’ve talked about figuring out if your child truly wants to play sports and what type of sports, team or individual, might be right for your child.  Today I’d like to ask you to think for a minute about what you hope your child will gain from playing sports.

Sports teach life skills in various ways.  Learning team work is probably the most obvious of the life lessons your child can gain from sports.  However, even individual sports can increase your child’s confidence, teach him or her the satisfaction that can be felt from pushing one’s self to surpass a personal best.

Why Do You Want Your Child To Play Sports?

It’s important that you understand why you, the parent, want your child involved in sports.  It’s also important that your child understands why he or she wants to play sports.  Some of the reasons are good, but if you really examine your reasons you might find some that aren’t great to hold on to.

For example, you may examine your heart and find that you really want your child to excel in sports because you excelled in sports and can’t imagine your child doing any different.  This puts a lot of unnecessary pressure on your child.  Or, it could be the opposite:  You didn’t excel at sports and want to live vicariously through your child.

It’s not that these reasons should cause you to keep your child away from sports, but instead you should work hard to prevent yourself from pressuring your child and you should do some work on yourself to get past these reasons.

Most of us have very good reasons for wanting our children to play sports such as learning to work with a team, gaining self-confidence, fitness and, of course, fun!  But do our reasons match our children’s reasons for wanting to play sports?

Why Does Your Child Want to Play Sports?

While a child younger than eight might not be able to articulate exactly why he or she wants to start playing sports, most children can tell you why they want to keep playing.  In my experience, getting to spend time with friends is a huge factor in why children play sports.  That’s a great reason, but when that’s your child’s main reason for playing sports it might conflict with your reasons for wanting your child to play sports.

I’ve seen it happen more than once that a parent wanted their child to be competitive and to be a sports star and their child simply wanted something fun to do in the afternoons and on weekends.  The children in these cases wound up with a lot of anxiety surrounding sports because of parental pressure to be competitive when all the child ever wanted was to have fun and burn off excess energy. Both the children and the parents in these cases were disappointed with sports.

Make sure that you ultimately align your expectations with your child’s reasons for playing sports.  Given that many children will start playing sports for fun and eventually end up staying because they want to be competitive it’s important to follow their lead.  If the opposite happens and your once competitive child decides that sports should play a lesser role in his or her life, change your expectations and let them follow their own path.

Why Do I Want My Children to Play Sports?

Since I’m asking you to ask yourself this question I’ll share my own answers.  I should be honest first and tell you that only two of my three sons plays sports.  When my husband and I were younger parents we assumed that all of our boys would play sports.  We couldn’t imagine a different life.  When my middle son professed his hatred for sports before the age of eight, we were disappointed, but backed off and have supported him in other endeavors.  Sports participation is NOT a must for children to thrive – even a sports-loving family!  The lessons my other two sons learn from sports can be learned from other activities, as well.

For my children who participate in sports I wish for them to gain the following:

  • A good body image.   I want my boys to feel how powerful and agile their bodies are from the conditioning that comes with playing sports.
  • A positive self-image.  The satisfaction of knowing they have pushed themselves to reach new goals. Being able to look back at past mistakes on the field or the court and see how far they’ve come will increase their positive feelings toward themselves.
  • Team work, of course.  Being able to think calmly and quickly and communicate well in high-pressure situations, forgive the mistakes of others even when those mistakes have cost them a win, helping teammates who are, at the time, less capable, and being willing to learn from teammates who are more capable.
  • Manage disappointment and excitement with class.  Sportsmanship is the word here.  As elated as I am when my child or his team wins a game or meet, nothing brings me down faster than seeing one of his team-mates (or a parent!) behaving in an arrogant, unbecoming manner.   I know we encourage our children to be classy when they lose a game, but how often do we press them to keep themselves in check when they win?
  • A life-long love of physical activity.  I never regret working out.  I have a huge struggle getting myself to actually work out, but never do I leave a work out wishing I hadn’t gone through with it.  I want my children to crave physical activity for life.  I want them to seek the endorphin high that keeps them coming back to play sports or doing the physical activity of their choice.

So, what do you hope that your child will gain from playing sports?

Should Your Child Play Sports

Should My  Child Play Sports?  Part I

Should My Child Play Sports?  Part II 

Should My Child Play Sports?  Part IV

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