Youth Sports. There is nothing that brings joy to a parent’s heart quite like seeing their little ballerina dancing across a stage in full (and most darling!) costume or watching their soccer player, all knees and elbows, running wildly across the field after scoring a goal.
Sports are commonly encouraged in children to help build confidence, learn social skills, practice following directions, and to burn some of their seemingly never-ending energy by engaging in a positive physical outlet. While the benefits of sports are numerous, the growing trend of increasingly competitive and time-consuming teams may be overwhelming both physically and mentally to young children. As a clinician, I am seeing an influx of elementary and middle school age clients who report experiencing high levels of anxiety related to rigorous sports schedules and expectations. This article will help parents assess if sports are playing a healthy role in their family by asking four simple questions.
Four Simple Questions
- Are sports prioritized over other meaningful engagements such as time together as a family, church or religious activities, school work, etc.? Does this fit with the family’s priorities?
- Is your child participating in a sport/team with a time commitment that is appropriate for their age?
- A five year old is unlikely to benefit emotionally and physically from a traveling sports team that practices 5-6 days a week while a 17-year-old may be successful with a similar time commitment.
- Is my child experiencing signs of stress or anxiety while engaging in a sport?
- While sports can be a wonderful tool for challenging children to push themselves to improve both physically and mentally, undue pressure by coaches and parents can negate the beneficial aspects of game play.
- What does my child say?
- Checking in with your children about their feelings is a great way to have insight into how they perceive their involvement in sports. Just because mom and dad played basketball, doesn’t mean the child will enjoy it!
These are very loose guidelines to starting a dialogue with your family about your unique situations. I encourage you to start a conversation! If you need help or would like to discuss this or any other topic further, I would love to speak with you!
Contact Ashley Barkley at (940)222-8703 ext.701 or [email protected]
P.S. I played sports as a child and teen and had an excellent experience doing so! However, times are changing and this is a topic that may require more thought than in past years.