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Little League Sports versus Free Play for Elementary Schooled Children

Updated on June 9, 2011

While attending a local county health fair, a pediatrician was leading an interesting discussion. I’m not sure if the seven members in the audience got slightly intrigued as I did or if they were just claiming seats for the upcoming Rumba class. The pediatrician was voicing his opinion on little league sports and free play for elementary schooled children. The pediatrician believed that parents are focusing too much on forcing their children into little league sports (i.e. pee-wee football, tee-ball) just to keep them occupied rather than allowing their children free play (basically playing in the yard or parks). As a mother of a 5 year old boy, I do put my son in these little leagues whenever the season comes around – but only if my son is truly interested. It isn’t worth the time, money, gas, and loss of sleep to wake up every Saturday morning at 7am to take a child to a game that he despises.

The pediatrician went on to say, in regards to a child’s development, these little leagues are too strict, don’t allow for independent judgment or creativity, and provide only a limited amount of exercise (during practice or actual games). In contrast, free play offers all this and more, since it can be done any day at any time. I agree with him to an extent. There is no room for creativity or sole independent judgment in little league, but that’s not the intention of little leagues. There is some independent judgment when the child decides to take the shot or pass, but to come up with a game plan of their own wouldn’t be rational. The purpose of little leagues is to introduce children to sports, responsibility, rules, competition, sportsmanship, and the interdependence of teammates.

The pediatrician voiced his opinion that children should be pulled out of little leagues and indulged in free play only – I’m pretty sure that’s when he lost the seven members in his audience. I believe there should be a nice balance between little leagues and free play for children. I know some parents that force their child into little league sports each season and load them with movies and video games during the offseason. And I know some parents that never put their children in little league sports and make due with keeping them entertained at home. Again, there should be a nice balance between the two so that the child can reap the benefits both have to offer. But completely abandoning one for the other, I don’t even think my 5 year old son will be able to agree to that.

What do you think of the pediatrician’s discussion?

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    • Keeley Shea profile image

      Keeley Shea 6 years ago from Norwich, CT

      I agree with you and see the need and the reasons for both kinds of play. My children REALLY enjoy league play, if they didn't I wouldn't force them because it is more work for me! But since they love it, it is definitely worth it and teaches them a lot. Especially being part of a team and the fun they can have working with others towards one goal.

    • Pamela Sarzana profile image

      Pamela Sarzana 6 years ago from northern Indiana

      Its good to get parents to consciously think about these things.