Children's sports can start out as an enjoyable activity, but an overly competitive environment can quickly turn the fun into a chore.
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:
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:
Here are other tips:
Make certain your child's coach and league are creating a safe and enjoyable atmosphere. Ask yourself the following questions:
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.
Healthy Children—American Academy of Pediatrics
National Alliance for Youth Sports
Public Health Agency of Canada
The American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Sports Medicine and Fitness. Intensive training and sports specialization in young athletes. Pediatrics. 2000;106(1 Pt 1):154-157.
Being a good sport (spectator): A quick guide for parents. American College of Sports Medicine website. Available at: http://www.acsm.org/access-public-information/articles/2012/01/13/being-a-good-sport-(spectator)-a-quick-guide-for-parents. Accessed July 5, 2017.
Choosing a sports program. Healthy Children—American Academy of Pediatrics website. Available at: http://www.healthychildren.org/English/healthy-living/sports/Pages/Choosing-a-Sports-Programs.aspx. Updated November 21, 2015. Accessed July 5, 2017.
What makes a good coach? Kids Health—Nemours Foundation website. Available at: http://kidshealth.org/teen/food_fitness/sports/good_coach.html. Updated November 2015. Accessed July 20, 2015.
Last reviewed July 2017 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Michael Woods, MD, FAAP
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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