Participating in extracurricular events is important for students of all ages but, for middle schoolers, it is even more so. Your child’s middle school years can be challenging what with puberty being thrown into the mix along with standardized testing and more challenging academic standards. Student sports can be a great benefit to your middle schooler during this time, though there are also some drawbacks to consider. Keep reading to learn about the pros and cons of sports for middle schoolers and to learn how you, as a parent, can support your student-athlete.
This video from TheHealthyState presents Bonita Springs Middle School students and their physical education teacher sharing their thoughts on P.E. in schools. They speak in light of Florida House Bill 4057, which proposes removing the state mandate for P.E.
What Are the Benefits of Sports for Middle Schoolers?
Regular exercise is important for your child’s health and wellbeing and sports are a great way to ensure that your kid gets some exercise. Aside from the physical benefits of playing sports, however, there are some other benefits to consider. For example, a recent study has shown a link between physical activity and improved academic performance. The University of Kansas looked at the performance of students compared to their participation in athletics – the results of the study showed that student-athletes had higher GPAs and a 10% higher rate for graduating high school. It is unclear exactly how physical activity boosted academic performance but it could be increased blood flow to the brain.
Another benefit of participating in sports as a middle schooler is the opportunity to work with other students, developing social skills as well as communication skills. Learning to work as a team is an invaluable skill no matter what your age or occupation. Sports are all about working together as a team to accomplish a common goal – winning the game. Not only must students work together, but they also need to learn how to communicate effectively. Participating in team sports is also great for developing self-esteem. Being part of a community can build your child’s confidence as an individual and it may help him feel more at home in his community and at school.
In this video, high school students discuss sports programs.
On the practical side of things, participating in sports will teach your child time management skills as well as decision-making skills. In regard to time management, your middle schooler will need to learn how to budget his time to ensure that he makes it to practice and games while also completing his school work and studies. In terms of decision-making skills, sports happen quickly and an athlete needs to be able to make a quick decision in order to be effective. This is a skill your child will naturally develop as he builds his athletic skills and gains more experience in the game. Sports will also help your child learn how to operate under pressure – this is a skill that will benefit him throughout his life.
Are There Any Drawbacks to Consider?
Though there are many benefits to be gained from participating in sports as a middle school student, there are also some drawbacks to consider. For one thing, some sports programs put a lot of pressure on their younger athletes as a means of developing them into stronger players so they can compete in high school. A sports program for middle schoolers needs to strike the right balance between competition and recreation. There is nothing wrong with putting an emphasis on winning the game, but it shouldn’t come at the expense of your child enjoying the sport. Placing too much pressure on young athletes may cause them to burn out and abandon the sport before they even reach high school age.
Another challenge associated with sports in middle school is the cost. Schools all over the country are experiencing budget cuts and extra-curricular programs are often the first to go. Sports programs tend to outlive the arts, but they can be affected by budget restraints just as much as any other program. Not only do sports programs cost schools money, but they can sometimes be expensive for the athletes themselves. Some schools require students to purchase their own uniforms and equipment, a burden that some families can’t shoulder. If you aren’t able to afford the right equipment, your middle schooler may not be able to perform as well as other students.
This video offers an overview of physical education.
How Can Parents Support Students in Sports?
If your middle schooler chooses to participate in sports, it’s your job as a parent to support them. It is also your job to make sure that your child still does well in school. Sometimes it can be a fine line to walk between supporting your child’s athletic interests without hurting his academic standing. Here are some tips for supporting your middle schooler in sports:
- Make academics the priority. Sports are great for middle schoolers but it’s your job as a parent to make sure that they don’t take priority over your child’s academics. Make sure your child finishes all their homework and that he maintains good grades while participating in sports.
- Volunteer for the team. Many sports teams rely on parents to volunteer – this is a great way to support your student. You may be needed to bring snacks to the game, to organize fundraisers, or to simply show up at the game to provide moral support.
- Let the coach do his job. In middle school, sports are more about fun and learning the game than they are about winning. At least this is how it should be. As a parent, it can be tempting to step in or complain about the coach but it’s better for your child if you let the coach do his job. It’s great to offer your help, but don’t try to do his job for him.
- Give your child room to grow. In addition to showing up at games and volunteering for the team, you should give your child room to grow and develop his skills. Look for opportunities to build your child’s skills such as a summer camp or a weekend event designed for kids.
- Keep it positive. As a parent, you want to see your child succeed but you must walk the line between being supportive and being overbearing. You should show up and cheer for your child at the game, but don’t forget that your child should be having fun – push your child to be his best, but don’t set unrealistic expectations.
- Focus on character building. There are many lessons to be learned through sports such as trying your best in all things, being a good sport, and practicing to make improvements. Support your child in these things and he’ll become a better athlete and a better person.
Sports are not right for every middle school student, but they are definitely worth considering. Participating in a sport can help your child develop stronger friendships while also learning valuable life skills such as leadership and dedication. If your child chooses to engage in sports, do what you can as a parent to support him or her and to help them get as much out of it as they can.
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