Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Is Your Child Ready for Competitive Sports?

     Millions of children participate in organized sports each year, some of them as young s four.  Sports participation for four- and five-year olds may include T ball, soccer, basketball and football. Involvement in a sports program offers positive benefits for children, but not every child is ready for team sports at the same age. Before launching your child into team sports, make sure you have examined the pros and cons.

Positive aspects of involvement
     Sports have the potential to build up your child in a positive way. Sports allow your child to develop physically. Sports allow your child to develop physically. They build up muscles, improve the cardiovascular system, balance, tone, and coordination. Once the season is over, these gains are lost unless physical exercise continues. Sports help a child develop the habit of regular exercise.
     Participation in sports allows children to learn to work as a team, solve problems together and cooperate with each other. It allows children to bond together through a common interest. Being a member of a team gives a much needed feeling of belonging.
     Large motor skills develop and are mastered through sports activities. Children build self-esteem and confidence as they master kicking, hitting, catching, throwing, and other new skills. These skills are the foundation for other skills they will learn later.
     Sports allows children to experience success and significance. Every child needs to  feel he is good at something. For some children this feeling is achieved on the ball field.

Negative aspects of involvement
     Although participation in sports should be a positive experience, it has the potential to harm a child. Competitive sports may be characterized by a "winning is everything" attitude. Imagine the anguish of a child who fails to hit the ball that could bring in the winning run or who is tagged out at home plate. This competitiveness also robs a child of the fun of being on a team.
     When the emphasis is on winning rather than fun and skill development, children are often unfavorably compared to other children. They may not be allowed to play in the game as much as the better players. Childrens' self-esteem is damaged when they fail to prove themselves a winner.
     Sports can bring out the worst in people. Adult friends with children on opposing teams may sacrifice their friendship in a dispute over a call or team conflict. Parents may alienate their children by driving them too hard to win and overlooking personal achievements.

Parental involvement
     The key to making sports either a positive or negative force on your child is you.
      Parents can help take the emphasis off of winning by encouraging new rules for young players. Many T ball leagues are being organized that don't count strikes or outs. They don't keep score so children are not divided into members of a winning  or losing team.
     By reorganizing the structure to eliminate the competitiveness children can concentrate on skills development, working as a team and having fun. This doesn't mean that children shouldn't develop a spirit of competitiveness, but at this age it can be channeled into a desire to improve their own skills and in wishing the best for everyone.
     Parents can be involved in choosing coaches and officials who support a non-competitive approach to sports for beginners. Parents may wish to become involved as officials or coaches as time and abilities permit.

Your child's involvement in sports
     Is your child physically ready? Sports are a great place to learn skills, but if a child's body isn't ready it is a frustrating time for everyone involved. Practice hitting, catching, kicking, throwing, running, and jumping at home first.
     Does your child have the maturity required? Is your child able to follow instructions and understand rules? Is he able to work with others in a group setting? If he isn't ready, work on developing these skills at home by playing simple games together. Find places, such as the library story time, where he can learn to be part of a group.
     Does your child understand commitment? Teams are assigned for a whole season. Allowing your child to quit half way through a season disrupts teams and lets your child know he can quit things that he doesn't like. Encourage him to complete the season. Then he has a whole year to decide if he wants to play again.
     Will it be an enjoyable experience for your child? Is the emphasis on fun, team work and skills development? Do all the children get to play? Your child should enjoy practices and look forward to games, not fear them.
     Does your child really want to be involved in sports? Just because an older child loved soccer doesn't mean it's what your younger child wants. Sports has many benefits but so do art, music, and family exercise times.
     Can your family make the time commitment? Sports require practices and games. Often meal time is changed to accommodate the games, and mom begins to feel like a chauffeur. Sports should unite the family, and your child should feel your support.

     Involvement in sports can be a positive influence on a child's self-esteem, physical and social development. Sports programs should be investigated by the parents first to make sure it will provide the most benefits for children while encouraging fun and an attitude of cooperation among players. Look around to see what is available in your area. Contact your local Park and Recreation Office or YMCA for information about children's sports leagues.

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