Parents are constantly challenging their children to play sports. Many dads want their sons to follow in their footsteps of football greatness. Some dads want their children to be the superstar they never were. Many moms feel their children could get seriously hurt playing any type of contact sports.
But, many other moms feel that playing sports with friends builds more than just good friendships. “Healthy minds, muscles and habits form while having fun!”
The seven reasons listed below demonstrate what the experts say about the benefits of organized sports for school-aged children and what the parents of such children think.
• The most important benefit of playing sports is exercise. The World Health Organization agrees that building stronger minds and bodies helps maintain regular exercise habits throughout life. Playing sports develops a healthy lifestyle and lifelong commitment to physical activity. Regular physical activity fights obesity. Sherrie, mom of a teenage son says: “Sports help teach teamwork, respect, and hopefully does not promote growing obesity which has more ailments associated with it than sports related injuries.
• Playing sports gives children the opportunity to meet and make new friends. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics(AAP), interacting with new friends builds social skills necessary to work as a team (AAP, 2001) Making friends is a healthy, necessary part of childhood. Stacey, mom of 3, said all her children played sports and thrived on it. It taught them a sense of belonging.
• Learning to follow and remember rules of the game help children develop lifelong problem solving skills. Learning new skills and following directions properly increase self-esteem. Parents say that the coaches’ attitude can positively affect the child’s attitude. Coaches turn out to be important role models for many children.
• The main reason parents encourage sports participation is that playing is just plain fun. Running around with teammates releases endorphins/adrenalin which gives anyone a euphoric feeling. Nicole, mom of 4, agrees that “not only do the children enjoy it, it's such a joy to watch them play.”
• Playing sports improves motor skills, balance and coordination. Parents need to decide with their pediatrician if their child is ready for sports. AAP states that when the demands of a sport exceed a child’s cognitive and physical development, the child may develop feelings of failure and frustration. Basic motor skills such as throwing, catching and hitting a ball do not develop sooner simply as a result of introducing them to children at an earlier age. (2001)
• Important life skills learned in sports prepare children for the future. Seefeldt and Ewing reports that sports participation enables children to make transition from childhood to adulthood. Coaches encourage young athletes’ responsibility, independence, respect and leadership so that they are better prepared for everyday life. (1996)
• Children learn the value of teamwork when they play organized sports. They learn how to work together to achieve a goal. WHO, (World Health Organization) argues that if children are pushed too hard, instead of learning team spirit, they will come away with feelings of failure and frustration. Parents say that learning teamwork during sports teaches them good sportsmanship. It is learning not to be a sore loser as well as learning how to be a gracious winner.
Participation in organized sports provides an opportunity for children to increase their physical activity, develop physical and social skills. However, WHO reports that when the demands and expectations of organized sports exceed the maturation and readiness of participation, the positive aspects of participation can be negated. Your child’s pediatrician can help decide when and what type of sports is right for your child. Finding the balance between safety and fun is key. Matt, dad of two girls proclaims: “Absolutely let them play! Broken bones heal.”