Part of your job as a parent is to push your kids to do and be their best. Sometimes this means limiting television privileges until your child finishes his homework. Other times it means taking time out of your own day to drive your child to see a tutor. There is no doubt that going the extra mile to ensure your child’s academic success is important, but what about other things? Should you encourage your child to join a sports team?
What Are the Benefits of Participating in Sports?
For children, playing sports is more than just a way to spend time after school – it can have a serious impact on the child’s mental and social development. Below you will find a list of some of the many benefits associated with team sport participation for children:
- According to a study published in the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine, teenagers who participated in team sports were smoke, do drugs, have sex, and carry weapons than those who did not.
- Being part of a sports team teaches your child how to work with others toward a common goal – it takes the combined effort of the whole team to win a game.
- Participating in sports can give children and young adults a sense of belonging. This is especially important during middle school and high school where cliques can form quickly, leaving children who are less socially gifted on the margins.
- The results of several research studies show that children who participate in sports are happier than those who do not.
- Playing a sport has a positive impact on the child’s health and his assessment of his health. One study showed that middle school boys who did not play team sports were five times more likely to identify themselves being in fair or poor health than those who did – girls were thirty times more likely.
- Being part of a sports team encourages a child to learn discipline and to develop a sense of commitment. It is a great way for children to learn that practice is the best way to improve performance.
- Playing a sport as a child may equate to better employment opportunities in the future. A study conducted by a professor of behavior science at Cornell University revealed that kids who play sports in high school make better employees than those who do not. Regardless whether the potential employer was an athlete or not, child athletes are looked upon more favorably in interviews.
These are just a few of the many reasons that you should encourage your child to play sports. Each child’s experience will be different but the potential benefits are significant enough that they should not be ignored.
When is it Okay to Let Your Child Quit?
The fact of the matter is that some children simply do not have a talent for sports. And, even if they do, some kids just do not like them. So when is it okay to let your child quit? Or should you push your child to keep up with the activity, even if he doesn’t want to? Below you will find key information about some factors to consider when making your decision.
- Find out why your child wants to quit. Before you go flying off the handle and give your child a lecture about the benefits of team sports, take a few minutes to listen and find out WHY your child wants to quit. You may find out that your child doesn’t enjoy playing the sport but might be interested in trying another activity.
- Talk to the team coach to help you understand the situation. If you are having a hard time getting a straight answer out of your child, talking to the coach might be enlightening. The coach should be able to give you inside into your child’s performance and his or her role on the team. If it seems like your child’s problems are the result of a misunderstanding, you may be able to help the coach understand your child which will make things better for everyone.
- Think about the timing. If the season hasn’t started yet, allowing your child to quit the team may not be a big deal. It is a different story if this happens during the middle of the season or right before a major event. If you understand your child’s reasoning for quitting but still want to teach him the importance of honoring your obligations, tell him that he must finish out the season but he doesn’t have to play again next year.
- Determine if another activity might be a better choice. Some children just do not enjoy sports and, for those that do, it can take some time to find the activity that is the best fit for your child. Give your child the opportunity to try out different sports and activities to see which one he likes. The important thing is that he is participating – it doesn’t really matter what sport it is.
- Don’t make your child feel guilty for quitting. If you decide to let your child quit the team, don’t make him feel bad about it. For some children, sports simply are not the right fit and if you make your child feel guilty about quitting he may be less willing to try something else.
Sometimes quitting the sport really is the best choice for a child. If the child no longer enjoys the sport or if it causes him to feel anxious or pressured to perform in a certain way, it might not be worth continuing. Each situation is different, so take the time to talk to your child and make the choice together rather than forcing you decision on the child.
There are many benefits associated with sports participation in children, but the fact of the matter is that sports are not always the right choice. There is no harm in signing your child up for little league baseball to see how he likes it, or encouraging your child to try out for the basketball team at school. But there is a difference between encouraging your child to participate and forcing him. To make sure that your child gets the greatest benefit out of his participation, include him or her in the decision when it comes to picking a sport and keep tabs on your child to make sure the experience remains a positive one. If there comes a time when continuing in the sport is no longer in your child’s best interest, understand that quitting is not always a bad thing.