In a nation being overrun by childhood obesity questions about whether or not your child has a healthy diet and is getting adequate physical activity are very important. As a parent, you only want what’s best for your child, but does that make it okay to force your child to play sports?
Let’s be upfront: It is not okay to force your child to play sports. No good will come of it. Your child will resent you, sports in general, and the team and coach specifically. However, while it is not alright to force your child to play sports it is perfectly alright to strongly encourage him or her.
As a parent you need to understand your motives for wanting your child to participate in sports. The benefits of sports include improved:
• Socialization skills
• Coordination and balance
• Physical fitness
• Team building skills
• Self esteem
If these benefits are why you’re eager to see your child don a team jersey that’s great. However, if this is an attempt to live vicariously through your child or if this is all about winning, re-examine your motives.
To encourage your child to try sports:
Let your child pick the sport. Compile a list of available sports and discuss each one.
Communicate with your child about why you want them to join a sport. Talk about the benefits.
Bring a friend. See if any of your child’s friends play sports or would be interested in joining your child.
If your child is leaning more towards artistic, musical, or other extracurricular activities don’t discourage that. Try rotating activities.
Unfortunately, getting your child to try sports is only half the battle; the other half is getting them to keep with it. In order to persuade your child to remain on the team, it’s important to understand why your child wants to quit. Two common reasons are:
They’re not having fun. Children are notorious for having a short attention span so if there’s a lot of downtime they’re probably bored. In addition, fun is sure to be lacking if your child is feeling too much pressure from you, the coach, or the team.
You’re not having fun. Life can be chaotic, and running to multiple practices and/or games in a week can be trying. If you’re feeling put out by your child’s team activities, he or she may be picking up on that.
If your child expresses a desire to quit find out why and then encourage him or her to stay by:
Approaching the coach with concerns. If your child wants to leave due to boredom politely express this to the coach. In addition, if the problem is too much pressure or negative attention, speak up. If things don’t change find a team that better fits your child’s needs.
Considering your reactions to your child’s mistakes or losses. Are you reacting negatively? Think about your actions ahead of time and try to put less pressure on your child.
Attending as many games and practices as possible. Don’t let your child see that his or her sports activity is inconvenient for you.
Discussing games and practices with your child. Express excitement and enthusiasm. Engage your child in open ended questions so you can gauge how he or she is really feeling.
If your child wants to quit the team in the middle of the season really push him or her to honor their commitment. Tell your child you expect their best throughout the season, but he or she doesn’t have to sign up next year. By the time the season is over your child may have forgotten about wanting to quit.
If your child does end up quitting encourage him or her to try a new sport. Although, it may be a good idea to take a little time off to avoid burnout or to try other (non-sport) activities. However, never stop encouraging your child to play sports.
– Article contributed by Alex Webb on behalf of Tristate Orthopaedic Sports Medicine. Alex believes that playing youth sports is a great way to help fight the childhood obesity epidemic in the United States and that all children should be encouraged to try multiple sports.