Sport. I love it. I played junior football for 10 years. We won 2 premierships and I was captain. All the things to make a child love the sport they are doing. Winning and being “that kid”- the coach’s favourite (I shared the captaincy with the coach’s son) BUT is sport really necessary for your child to be healthy and happy.
Here are my pros and cons of children’s sport to help you answer the question- “Does my child actually need to play a team sport?”
Being a part of team and working towards a common goal is something we all love to be a part of. Whether it is in the work place, running your own business or even your family. Having you child learn this at an early age is important and sport definitely does this. Understanding what the role (the position) your child plays and how they are going to contribute to the team goal help kids really feel accepted and included in the team.
Even though there aren’t a lot of scoreboards these days at junior sport, kids know who has won and lost. Don’t worry about that! All you need to do is look at the winning teams body language at the final siren. Happiness, joy, smiles! Which is fantastic. There is a surge of happy hormones and you child’s self-esteem rises. All huge pluses.
On the other side of the coin- losing.
Losing builds true resilience. Learning to respond to disappointment in a positive way is a life-long skill. It certainly isn’t pleasant but, as I’m sure you know, life throws all sorts of things at us as adults. If kids get exposed to this feeling early in life, then they can build strong resilience to have with them forever.
One of the main reasons your child will love sport is their friends also play. This keeps their social life cup full while being active. Perfect. Some children really aren’t too bothered about winning or losing the actual game. The fact their buddies are there week in, and week out keeps them going back.
Good activity levels. Now I say good as this can vary but let’s look at the pro side of things. Soccer (unless your child is goal keeper), AFL, rugby, netball, basketball, swimming generally has your child moving a lot. The famous beehive (this is where every child on the field chases the ball) keeps all players moving. Building fitness is a major reason for sport but not all sports have adequate movement.
It’s game day. Your child is all geared up and ready to go. You’ve got your cheering voice set to go and….. the ball doesn’t go anywhere near your child the whole game. For example, the goal keeper in soccer. If your child is on a good team the ball may not ever go down to where you child is (probably sitting at this point). Tee-ball and baseball also may have your child standing in the outfield with no action. Then it is time for them to bat and they get struck out. I completely understand this is the nature of sport but from a movement and development point of view what is your child gaining?
Unfortunately, in my time training kids I have many come to join in a class being so extremely scared and nervous due to their experience with a past coach. Kids have been told that “their size won’t suit this sport”, “you just don’t get it so sit out” or have been stressed out so much due to the coaches drive to win at all costs. Not all coaches are like this, but it is certainly worth keeping an eye out for. Children need multiple role models especially as they get older so ensure the environment you leave your child with is one that matches your values.
You played sports. Your partner played sports. Your first child loves sports but your second child is so scared and makes up any excuse to get out of playing team sport. Why? Your little one just may be an introvert. An introvert is someone who prefers calm, minimally stimulating environments. Introverts tends to feel tired after socializing and get their energy from alone time. The feel-good hormone gets released differently between introverts and extroverts so trying to force your child to be in an over-stimulating, busy sporting game could be forcing them to live their actual nightmare.
Injuries are a part of sport, right? It comes with the territory. Definitely not. The number of adults I have trained over the years with ankle issues they have had since playing netball as a child is crazy, read why kids all roll their ankles HERE. Concussion is a serious matter but kids are still taught to “go hard” and “hit hard”. Unfortunately, being in a team may result in your child not getting the individual prescription they require to help prevent injuries or develop lacking skills. For example, doing specific ankle strengthening exercises to help prevent more rolled ankles.
Sport is engrained in our culture. There are no two ways about it but what do you and your child want from their sporting experience. Will your child be a professional sportsperson? Do you just want them to live a health lifestyle? What is the best option for you child?