There are millions of (around 30-45 million) American kids who participate in youth sports every year. And the number, along with the percentage of participation goes up every year.
It’s an impressive number especially with benefits like health, attitude and personality attached to youth sports. But there’s an underlying concern here. Youth sports is not just about sports and fun anymore, it’s serious business. It’s indeed concerning to see that parents are taking up professional sports training for their kids at a very tender age. There are championships, leagues and tournaments being held for kids as young as 7, sometimes even younger. U.S. Kids Golf World Championship has a category for boys under 6, professional basketball, football, swimming etc. training taking place for kids at 5 even younger.
Parents want their kids to be focused, trained and professional from the start. More and more kids are being made to train only in one sport and coaches sell their professional and expert services to parents showcasing the talent they have groomed and success stories they have created. Parents have their own motives. There’s hope for a college scholarship, there’s ego and pride involved being a star athlete’s parents and above all, everyone else is doing it, no one wants their kid to be left behind, although that’s ego too.
But there are more serious issues involved here. In this mayhem of competition and professionalism, a child’s childhood is getting lost. Kids do not get to play what they want, when they want and how they want. Playing isn’t even attached to the game, it’s synonymous with competition. The aim is to win every time. There’s shame and disgrace attached to losing. And kids don’t play for the sake of playing anymore, they play to win. At ten the child’s future is decided. What if the kid grows to like something else? Shouldn’t talent, interest and liking be nurtured naturally, as and when it comes? And a very serious concern, sports expose kids to the risk of serious injury. Concussions, for instance, have become more frequent than ever. All this causes a serious threat of emotional, mental and developmental issues in children.
You cannot totally avoid sports training, but you can certainly put in some thinking into it. As a parent if these issues concern you too, here what you can do:
- Encourage your kid to participate in sports, a variety of them, whatever interests her. If your kid has a special talent, it will find her. You wouldn’t have to get a professional opinion on it.
- See signs of fatigue, both mental and physical, and give your kid some time off. Spend time talking to your child, listening to her, playing a game of their choice once in a while. This will bring in a lot of emotional security in the child, which will help in overall development and progress of the kid.
- Give a break and take a break. Call Sunday a no-sports day. Or maybe some time off during the year when your kid does not play, just gets some time for herself, some perspective. Its important for you as a parent too.
- Do not make your child a part of a very competitive team, a tyrannical coach or hard-core sports club. Sports clubs or teams for kids must have some child-friendly practices.
- Be a supportive parent. Let kids lose one in a while. Let them have their moments. Don’t be demanding, interfering or win-obsessed. It’ll do more damage than good.