A Child’s Participation in Sports

Children who participate in physical activities, including sports, stand to develop physical skills, get exercise, make friends, have fun, learn to play as a member of a team, learn to play fair, and improve self-esteem. Sport participation can also lead to children feeling healthier and having an increased life satisfaction. Parents should be mindful of the benefits and risks involved in sport participation.

Choosing a sporting activity for your child should be dependent on several factors; the cost involved, your child’s level of interest in participating in the sport, appropriateness of the sport to your child’s age and ability, amount of time required, commitment level desired by the coaches and so on.

Mayo Clinic: Age-appropriate activities (Age 2-8+)

It is important to remember that the attitudes and behavior taught to children in sports carry over to adult life. Parents should take an active role in helping their child develop good sportsmanship.– American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP)

The AACAP suggests that parents can help their child get the most out of sports by:
•providing emotional support and positive feedback,
•attending some games and talking about them afterward,
•having realistic expectations for your child,
•learning about the sport and supporting your child’s involvement,
•helping your child talk with you about their experiences with the coach and other team members,
•helping your child handle disappointments and losing, and
•modeling respectful spectator behavior

One myth about sport participation is that it guarantees a child is receiving adequate exercise. U.S. guidelines state that young people should perform 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity each day. Findings show that fewer than half of children and 10 percent of teens meet these guidelines. In addition to organized sport participation, children can meet their quota through physical education classes at school and active play at home.

Participation in organized sports can help the intellectual development and academic functioning of a child. Regular exercise increases brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a brain chemical responsible for cognitive thought and influences a person’s capacity for knowledge. Also, the concentration required during the physical activity will increase post-exercise focus and attention in young people. It isn’t uncommon for parents to withdraw their child from sports because of poor school performance. This may actually do more harm than good.

The Mayo Clinic reminds us that organized sports aren’t the only option for fitness. Children who do not seem interested in organized sports can benefit from other physical activities. These can include family bike rides, hikes, jump rope, time spent on a trampoline, shooting baskets, and even playing video games that encourage physical movement like dance.

Parents should be mindful of providing balance in their child’s life. As sports programs become more competitive, children may become stressed and overworked as a result of their parents’ attempts to keep them involved. Sports involvement should remain enjoyable to the child and they should not be harmed, emotionally or physically.

Sports provide a beneficial avenue toward enhancing a child’s development. Caregivers can facilitate this development by being mindful, striking a balance and protecting their child during physical activity involvement.

Image: healingdream / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Links: American Academy of Pediatrics audio files: When Your Child Wants to Quit Sports
Preventing Children’s Sports Injuries



About Traci S. Williams-Nurse

Dr. Traci Williams-Nurse is a licensed psychologist who specialized in child, adolescent and family psychology. Her interests include child development, family functioning, video games and food. She was born and raised in Trinidad & Tobago and currently lives in Atlanta, Georgia.
This entry was posted in Academic Performance, Attention, Mental Health, Parents, Sports, Videogames and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to A Child’s Participation in Sports

  1. Pingback: Is Your Child Involved in Too Many Activities? | Child Space

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