Wednesday, September 14 2022

In our results-driven culture, it can be easy to get carried away with the idea that more is better. We are simply investing in our child’s future. 2 practices per day. Private lessons. What about that speed and agility trainer that Suzy on the street shows her 7-year-old? More more more! It must be better, right?

We are caught up in the idea that we must give our children every opportunity to succeed. There’s nothing inherently wrong with this line of thinking, but what we don’t realize is the enormous pressure we put on our children at such a young age. This can be detrimental and cause our little superstar to burn out even before the start of his career. Or worse, we can create a negative relationship with overall health and well-being.

In this article, we’ll talk about how to create an environment that fosters a true love of sports and how we can empower our children to take charge of their health.

THE BENEFITS OF SPORT

It’s no secret that physical activity is good for your health. The benefits are considerable.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, children who play sports have better cardiovascular health, do better in school, and are less likely to develop mental health issues, such as anxiety and depression. Essential life skills like discipline, leadership, commitment and teamwork are also developed through sport. These valuable life lessons apply to all aspects of life.

Children learn primarily through play. And playing is fun! That’s why we get into sports in the first place. Have you ever seen a kid having a blast, recreating a homerun or a buzzer-beater, pretending they just won the championship? (I did. It’s a typical Tuesday in the Seaver house). But as children get older, play is replaced by the pressure to succeed. If we switch from fun to pressure at an early age, we have a negative impact on our child’s relationship with sport, which can spill over into other aspects of life.

THE IMPACTS OF PRESSURE

It is important to remember that our children are just that, they are children. They are still in development. It’s our job as parents to develop and support healthy habits when it matters most.

Stress and burnout

Too much stress on our young athletes can lead to anxiety, depression or other unwanted ailments. Children, like all of us, crave connection. Watch them and listen to them. Active listening does wonders. You can tell when the kids are having fun or if they are just making moves.

-Do they dread going to practice or find excuses to skip it?

-Are they excited for an upcoming game or have they completely stopped talking about their sport?

-Do they show non-verbal cues?

As parents, we want to foster an environment that allows a child to speak up when things aren’t going well. We want them to know that it’s okay not to be well. The more comfortable the environment, the clearer their communication will be. Allow them to refuse by allowing them to say no.

FOR THE LOVE OF THE GAME

Parents and coaches should be involved as much as possible, but in a healthy way. Positive experiences should be prioritized over winning. We want athletics to provide a safe and controlled environment where kids can make mistakes and where they can learn to overcome them. These invaluable life skills help shape tomorrow’s leaders in many fields, not just in the field.

Stripped down, all sports are just games. These are not high stakes, life or death, matches, especially on the kids’ circuit. Let’s remember this when we get caught up in a bad call or start taking things too seriously. At the heart of it all, sport is meant to be enjoyable for our little ones.

As parents, we should strive to provide unconditional rather than outcome-based support. Ask your children questions such as: “What do you think of the game?” rather than focusing on wins or losses. Provide encouragement and positive feedback. Do other activities. Help your children develop an identity outside of sport. Foster their passions and work to promote intrinsic motivation. Finally, get in the game, it’s supposed to be fun!

References:

https://www.healthychildren.org/English/news/Pages/AAP-Encourages-Organized-Sports.aspx#:~:text=%E2%80%9CThe%20comradeship%20and%20teamwork%20needed,associated%20with% 20improved%20mental%20health.

Kevin is a former college baseball player turned personal trainer and fitness consultant for a global corporate wellness company. He is passionate about fitness and the importance of a holistic relationship with health and wellness. He loves everything outdoors, a good cup of coffee, and chasing after his hyperactive 3-year-old (all of which are oddly correlated with each other). For more information, contact him at [email protected]

Want more? Check out this article, 8 constructive ways to push your child in youth sports!

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