Why Sports Are So Important For Children
Children and sports has been criticized a lot lately with the increase in overuse injuries, over scheduling of children, and even deaths caused by overheating at practices. I am still a firm believer in the benefits of childhood sports however. I think every child can benefit from playing sports – both unstructured such as in the backyard as well as organized sports like playing on a baseball team.
Sports teach children many important lessons in life. While I think there is a place in sports for every child and team being a winner, I also think that healthy competition is necessary to raising children. Healthy competition will result in both winners and losers. This is an important opportunity for parents and coaches alike to teach children to find the positive in losing situations, to become a good sport, and to have fun regardless of whether you win or lose.
Many leagues have adopted a no losing situation. In fact the soccer league my boys have played in for years would never kept score and never kept track of who won or lost a game. While at the younger levels I think this is fine, you had better believe those kids kept track of the score in their head the entire game and knew exactly who won or lost. This year for the first time during the final session they did keep track and even had playoffs at the end. The kids were so excited to finally have it be a competition. I think there needs to be a balance and the right aspects of the game emphasized to keep it a healthy competition.
When children play sports they will gain confidence in their body’s ability to perform. Every sport might not be for every child, but a child has 15 or so years to find one that might work for them. Regardless of what some parents and frequently the media say, your child does not have to specialize in one sport from the age of 4 on. There is plenty of time for them to try all the different sports and either find one they enjoy and can succeed in, or play them all for the fun of it. I have children that do both. My son wants to play a different sport every season and he has tried numerous ones in his 13 years. My daughter on the other hand found her passion at the age of 3. We have tried other things off and on over the years but she keeps sticking with the same sport and that is fine with me. As long as she is in a sport and enjoys it that is what is important.
Kids these days have too much free time on their hands. Many times this free time is unsupervised, which can lead to all sorts of problems and bad decisions. Having your children involved in sports will keep them busy in structured, supervised settings that are good for them. When kids have something like sports to occupy their time, they are less likely to get involved in drugs and alcohol.
When a child plays unstructured sports in the backyard or on the playground they learn to get along with other children, have fun and get exercise. All of these things are very important to keeping a child physically and mentally healthy. When a child plays organized sports they learn to listen to coaches, get along with teammates, work together as a team for a common goal, and to follow rules and directions. All of these lessons will serve them well in life. Let them play sports when they are children and they will reap the benefits for decades.