Olympic Games #17– What is the Role of Sports for Kids?

This weekend is the Olympics Closing Ceremonies. As the Games end, it’s a good time to think about what is the role of sports for kids? Perhaps, more importantly, how do we encourage young children in sports without pushing them?

role of sports for kids

Family therapist and parenting expert Carleton Kendrick has some excellent suggestions for preschool kids. In the article, Why Most Kids Quit Sports, he writes: “Focus on the element of play in any sports activity you introduce to very young kids. Make it fun! Don’t burden them or concern them with competition, keeping score, and rules. Get them running, kicking, throwing, catching … and laughing. Use equipment that suits their bodies and coordination levels (toss a beanbag instead of a ball). Adapt games according to their abilities. Always offer encouraging words for all their efforts.”

In listening to the interviews with top athletes at the Olympic Games, did you hear how many of them talked about having fun and enjoying themselves? Of course, they have worked hard and made tremendous sacrifices for years, but they continue because they love their sport. For young children, if we put too much emphasis on performance and outcome, sports becomes a source of stress instead of a source of fun.

role of sports for kids

Another key for young children is participation. Winning is far less important to them than being able to run around and be active. Just watching doesn’t have much appeal at all. When it comes to rules, remember at this age kids aren’t asking what are the rules. They are exploring and figuring out how rules work in the first place. They have an idea that rules have power and often complain about younger brothers and sisters not following the rules. You have likely had challenges with the issue of rules already.

As we watch the world’s top performers in sports march out at the Closing Ceremony, we are getting a future look at the role of sports for kids. Like the 3 medals, there are 3 keys: play, fun, and participating. What are your thoughts on the role of sports for kids?

The Value of Sports for Kids – 1, 2, 3, Let’s PLAY !

During a radio interview, an Olympic athlete talked about the value of sports for kids, not it terms of competition but participation. Playing sports is a way to play.

value of play for kids

The list of reasons why sports is beneficial for kids is a long one. One of the most obvious is the physical activity. Kids love and need to move. With sports there are so many different ways to be active. Movement activities of all sorts is great for bodies in terms of muscle development and coordination, along with strength and endurance, but they also promote healthy brains. The brain develops connections and pathways along with thinking skills and strategies.

Sports often includes a social aspect. Whether or not kids belong to a team, they become more aware of others. As team members, kids practice watching and listening to others. They learn more about relationships and how to interact.

Self-control and regulating emotions are challenges for all of us, and especially for young children. Coping with frustration, dealing with fears, and handling risk, are only three but think of how much learning that involves. Certainly, they are part of playing sports.

Definitely, sports include fun. Recently, there have been concerns about the high percentage of kids who drop out of organized sports. There have been increased reminders to parents and caregivers to remember that kids play for fun.

What fun sports activities can your child do today? How about kicking and chasing a ball around at the park? Maybe, your child would enjoy some time at the community pool. A pool noodle can double as a field hockey stick to move a beach ball in the backyard. Tag is a fun game with lots of variations. If there isn’t space at home for running, there might be a school playground nearby for racing around. A bike ride can happen close to home. Whatever works for you and your family, include some time for sports play.

value of play for kids

Football player and now coach, Mike Singletary said, “Do you know what my favorite part of the game is? The opportunity to play.” Really, isn’t that the top reason on the list of the value of sports for kids? The opportunity to play.

FUN is a Key Element in Sports for Kids and Pros

When Brazil welcomed the world to watch the soccer matches of the World Cup, enthusiasm for the sport of soccer spread far and wide. Although young children are excited to play, how long will that last? Unfortunately, for many children not long enough. Just recently, an article has been circulating called “The real reason why our kids quit sport” and it has the shocking statistic that only 30% of children continue after the age of 13!

young children need fun in sportsPlaying sports encourages children’s learning and development in many ways, so why are so many children choosing to drop out? According to Peter Gahan, involved with player and coach development, “Fun needs to be at the very heart of sport, says Gahan. Even at the elite level, he says, research now shows all athletes need a fun activity in their training session.” Losing the aspect of fun is all too easy, especially if we as parents and caregivers, put too much emphasis on the outcome of a game. A significant reason that kids quit is the adult reactions. Instead of being fun, the game becomes a source  of stress.

Of course, there are other factors that contribute to stress, such as lack of time, unhappy interactions with coaches, lack of connections to teammates, but another important one is internal. Children see themselves as not being good enough. Peter Gahan explained,”They wanted to impress and look good but they couldn’t, [so] they gave up.”

Given this, it’s no wonder more than two-thirds will drop out. Especially for young children, fun and play are the most important aspects of any sport activity. We have all heard that it’s not winning or losing but how we play the game. As far as kids are concerned, the how isn’t all that important either, it’s simply the play. For today’s play-of-the-day, could  your child have some fun and learning with sport PLAY?

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