Children in Competitive Sports Essay

As more parents enroll their children into competitive sports like football, gymnastics, and swimming to name a few, the controversy whether this type of competitive participation is beneficial or not continue to grow. Supporters for competitive sports propose arguments like it encourages physical activity and teaches good character while opponents claim that sports are no longer fun for the children and promote an inappropriate win-at-all cost mentality. [ The best compromise would be to offer a low-pressure fun environment from the coaches and parents that emphasize that children have an enjoyable time.


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The main supporting argument to allow children to play sports is because it offers a healthy avenue for physical activity. A study had linked a sedentary lifestyle with “the development of cardiovascular disease, diabetes mellitus and obesity” in adults with their origins rooted in their childhood (Massin ). Even more, many of today’s children do not get enough physical activity, spending nearly 20 hours a week in front of a television, making it the most time spent on any one activity besides sleeping (Boyse and Song “Television”).

As a result, nearly a quarter of all children in America are considered obese according to Boyse (Obesity and Overweight). One reason is probably due to the lack of physical activity today’s children engage in. An easy way to prevent children from becoming obese is to encourage them to play a sport which requires them to stay physically active. Also, according to the results of a research done by a group on the cardiorespiratory system of children, they recommended “controlled physical competitive activity in children because of its benefits on cardiorespiratory function and the absence of adverse effects” (Caballero 371).

Children also learn many good values from participating in sports and from winning and losing games. Sheehy learned the value of working hard and persevering through difficult times. Many times he wanted to quit because he wasn’t good enough for the team, but he was encouraged by his father to continue practicing and as an end result of his hard work, he made his high school varsity basketball team (Sheehy 19-21). In addition, Sheehy believes losing is a great way to teach many important lessons to children like controlling their emotions and finding positive aspects in a bad situation.

Furthermore, Sheehy believes that a team has much more room for improvement after experiencing a loss than a win (70-73). Finally, winning is a good thing too. It gives children a goal to work hard towards and the feeling of victory is a great reward for an entire season’s worth of hard work and practice (Sundberg 71). In addition, participation in competitive sports is a great way to teach children many important lessons that can be applied later in life.

A study found that children who participated in sports generally scored higher for competitiveness. However, in the same study, they found that children who didn’t play sports exhibited higher signs of impatience and aggression ( Kanda). This was probably because the children who participated in sports had developed a better character through playing sports. Furthermore, according to Heckler, some form of competition in young children is a good thing because it is one of the main motivational factors behind success in the real world beyond sports.

If a person lacks a competitive drive to succeed and puts no effort into anything they do, then they will never get anywhere in life (Heckler). Also, most sports require some degree of teamwork and cooperation in order to be successful. Therefore, teamwork can teach children from an early age that it is necessary to work together and relate with one another in order to succeed (Sundberg 72). In addition, it is possible for children to know who they truly are and their own physical and mental limits through sports.

They will be able to find out what their strengths and weaknesses are and can improve their own character by participating in sports (Sundberg 71) However, there are many reasons why children quit competitive sports; the number one being because it was no longer fun (Engh 132). According to the National Alliance for Sports, 70 percent of children quit competitive sports by the age of 13 and never return to play competitively again (Kendrick). Most of the time, these children quit because their coaches and parents began to emphasize other things like winning instead of having fun.

The coach might not give everyone equal playing time, only putting out his best players for games and not giving some of the lesser skilled players any time at all (Engh 85). Furthermore, according to a poll of 26,000 children, the number one reason why they played sports was “for fun” (Team Sports). Children usually have fun in sports because there is little pressure to excel and they enjoy learning the basic skills and fundamentals of a game. However, “making kids concentrate on one sport often takes the fun out of it” (Senay 239).

When parents start forcing their children to attend practice against their will, the children begin to perceive it as work and not as fun and that is when they want to quit. The number two reason why children quit competitive sports was that there was too much pressure on winning (Engh 132). Many children’s enthusiasm for the sport declines as the coach begins to emphasize winning. In the same poll asking 26,000 children why they played sports, winning came in tenth after improving skills and staying in shape (Team Sports).

Obviously, winning means much more to the parents and coaches than to the actual participants themselves. It is important to remember that these games are supposed to be for the children and not a way for parents to live their hopes and dreams or past regrets and failures through their children. Parents and coaches should keep in mind that the participants of these competitive sports are children who are looking for a fun time, not professional athletes whose only job is to win. Another argument that opponents cite is that it is not safe for the children.

An overwhelming majority of volunteer coaches are not properly trained for safely teaching children how to play sports (Engh 81). Many of these volunteer coaches are usually fathers who have volunteered for the position because no one else was willing to do it. Therefore, many of them have not gone through basic training to give lessons properly and safely. Even worse, sometimes even the properly trained coaches may disregard warning symptoms of exhaustion, heatstroke, or pain by forcing the children to “tough it out” and have a macho attitude during practice and ignore any discomfort they might experience.

However this “no pain, no gain” mentality may have unforeseen consequences by causing serious sport injuries instead of making the children stronger and tougher athletes (Senay 242). Also, some coaches may utilize unsafe practices so they can have an advantage over the competition. One story went like this. A mother came to practice early to pick up her son and found him in the coach’s car with the heat turned on high while wrapped in plastic bags. The coach’s plan was to force the boy to sweat out 7 pounds so he could make the 98 pound weight limit.

Unfortunately, the coach’s ignorance and negligence put a child’s life at risk just so his team could have an advantage in the upcoming season. Even worse, stories like these can be seen in newspapers across the country on a daily basis (Engh 91). Finally, children may not develop good character because they are surrounded by and learning from poor examples. The idea that children learn by example and not words is even more applicable in competitive sports. Children are surprisingly observant about an adult’s actions.

A study which interviewed youth sports participants for moral issues they encountered in sports found that there were three main problems they had experienced which were fairness of adult’s actions, negative game behaviors, and negative team behaviors (Stuart). Also, the activities of unruly parents during sporting events are probably the farthest thing from teaching good character to their children. Some parents can become overly enthusiastic especially when their children are playing and may cause disruptive scenes if they believe that there was an unfair ruling against their children.

Furthermore, these disruptive scenes may escalate into actual physical fights among parents. In one news story, one hockey player’s father started a fight with another player’s father on the opposing team over a small disagreement. It ended with one man killed and the other charged with manslaughter. As the story goes, while one dad was beating on the other man, his son begged for him to stop and tried to pull his dad off while he continued to assault the other man (Hegedus, “Sports Rage”).

Another story made headlines when a brawl started in Los Angeles involving more than 30 adults while they were watching a football game of 14 year olds (Parents Fight. ). Even though these are extreme examples, they are starting to become common occurrences in the bleachers. Finally, I have to ask, is this really the kind of character that parents want to exhibit and teach to their children? In summary, there are strong reasons on both sides why competitive sports should be prohibited or allowed.

Research shows and recommends that playing sports is a great way for children to stay healthy. Also, by playing sports, children can learn how to deal with the realities of life and experience the rewards of hard work. On the contrary though, many children enroll in competitive sports because they originally perceived it to be fun. However, as children grow older and competition becomes more intense, sports may start being seen as work and not play. Furthermore, competitive sports may not be as safe for children as it is currently perceived.

Untrained coach volunteers and unsafe practices may lead to permanent injury to children. Finally, because children can be exposed to poor role models like unruly parents and coaches, they may not be able to develop a good moral character if they are to learn from them by example. I think that the best compromise between the two sides would be to offer a low pressure environment that emphasizes having fun in sports. The main reason children participate in sports is so they can have fun so it would be in the children’s best interest to offer them just that.

One way to create a low pressure environment is to not keep scores or statistics like points made or batting averages. In fact, it may also be beneficial if the scores were not displayed during games too. Instead, points would be marked secretly and quietly so that the parents would not become unruly especially if the game becomes intense. In addition, there should be a requirement by all family members of players to sign a code of conduct that they will “uphold a certain standard of behavior and exhibit good sportsmanship” as some leagues have already implemented (Hegedus, “Silent Saturdays and Oaths”).

Finally, it may be a good idea to assign people to constantly monitor the parents and stop any disruptive behavior before it can get out of control (Engh 158). In addition, all coaches should be properly trained in teaching children and monitoring their health. They should stress maintaining a healthy practice environment like ensuring that their players get adequate water and take necessary breaks if the day is extremely hot or if they experience any sort of bad pain. Furthermore, volunteers should be required to take some basic classes and have some type of certification so that they are properly trained in teaching children safely.

Also, contrary to belief, a certification requirement would not deter volunteers. A study done by Northern Kentucky University found that people would rather volunteer for a team that required certified volunteers and that a training requirement and fee “would not discourage them from volunteering to coach” (Engh 160). Finally, coaches should be well aware that every single one of their actions can have an impact, whether positive or negative, on their team. The children are looking up to the coaches as a leader and it is the coach’s job to be a good role model for them.

In addition to coaches, parents should be well educated about how their actions can impact their children. Coaches should hold regular mandatory meetings with only parents and explain in detail what the season will entail, how the children are expected to behave, and most importantly, what the role of the parents should be. Also, if the parents are not able to attend these meetings, then the child should not be able to play. According to Engh, he has found this method of forced participation to be very effective in convincing the parents to attend these types of meetings (154).

Children should also be informed that it is appropriate if they complain about a certain practice the coach is doing. The children should be encouraged and feel safe to talk about anything and everything with their parents who should in turn listen carefully for any signs of bad practice or abuse. Also, I think that implementing a confidential hotline to report abusive practices for each region could help reduce bad coaching practices. In conclusion, I think that competitive sports are a great way for kids to just have fun and enjoy their youth.

However, it is important that sports stays fun for the children and not have overly enthusiastic parents or coaches who are willing to win at all costs ruin their fun. Even though there are many good reasons why competitive sports should be banned, there are equally valid reasons why competitive sports should be allowed. Finally, children originally started playing sports because they wanted a fun and enjoyable time with other kids. It is time that we returned the fun to the children playing sports and stop trying to impose adult standards on them. Cited Sources Boyse, Kyla. “Obesity and Overweight.

” November 2004. University of Michigan Health Systems. 9 June 2005. Boyse, Kyla and Ellen Song. “Television. ” July 2004. University of Michigan health Systems. 9 June 2005. Caballero, Jaraba, et al. “Effects of Physical Exercise on the Cardio Respiratory System of Children. ” An Esp Pediatr April 1999:367-372. PubMed. Bellevue Community College Library Media Center. 9 June 2005. Engh, Fred. Why Johhny Hates Sports. New York: Avery. 1999 Heckler, Tim. “Competition Prepares Players for Life Beyond Sports. ” February 1999. United States Professional Tennis Organization. 3 June 2005.

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