Sunday, September 16, 2012

Kids and Team Sports: What’s the Motivation?

When you sign your kids up for team sports like soccer or little league, what is the reasoning behind it? I only ask because what I observe from parents is not consistent with how I think most parents would answer that question. We’ll start with my assumptions about how you might answer:

We want our kids to be able to get along well with others. By putting them on a team, the hope is that they learn how to work collectively toward a common goal. The lesson for kids is that it takes everybody doing their part for the team to function at its best; everybody matters.

Perhaps you want your kids to do something besides watch television and play video games. The best incentive for exercise you can conjure is a team sport. They get to play with friends and run off some of that excess energy at the same time. Michelle Obama would be proud.

Your home may be like my home, where kids begged their parents to sign them up for a sports team. We loved being outside and playing games. There was no ulterior motive; we found sports fun.

There are morals that can be learned by playing team sports as well. Children can learn how to play by the rules, how to be good winners and losers and what it means to treat other people (even the competition) with respect.

As kids get older, they become more competitive. It may start off as “My dad’s better than your dad. He’s in charge of Austin air conditioning service,” but it can easily progress to more hurtful words. There is nothing wrong with a little competition, but sometimes it’s good to have an outlet for such a mindset as a means of curbing the banter off the field. Wanting to win pushes kids to be better, to try harder and to achieve their potential.

Unfortunately, what I have observed is that team sports for kids become more about the adults than it does the children who are actually playing. Here are some of the things I’ve observed that concern me:

I understand that recruiters have to scout players before they graduate in order to have some idea about their skill level. What I don’t understand is why my friend’s granddaughter is being scouted by college scouts while she’s still in middle school. Where is the line that says, “No. She’s just a kid. Let her stay a kid as long as she can. She doesn’t need this extra pressure; she’s still figuring out how to navigate adolescence”?

Hostile parents
If parents claim they sign their children up for team sports for the reasons I mentioned in the first section, what is it that changes in their minds and causes them to be so obnoxious on the sidelines? Grown men have no good reason to get into a fist fight at a pee-wee football game, no matter how bad the referee is or what little Johnny did to little Benjamin in the way of a foul.

In it for the money
Another friend of mine has pushed her daughter to play soccer since she was three years old. The kid loves the sport and is good at it, but she didn’t have the freedom to stop playing throughout her school years. The reason: her parents expected her to get a soccer scholarship to help pay her college tuition. Wanting your kid to get a scholarship is not unusual. Pushing a child her entire life for that sole purpose is just wrong.

It’s not just parents that are in it for the money. Varsity coaches are pressured by school administrators to win or lose their jobs. Can you imagine your livelihood resting on the performance of teenagers?

So my question is this: why do your kids play sports, and do you (and their coaches) exhibit that same motivation on the sidelines?

Tiffany Marshall is a freelance writer who writes on behalf of many different companies. If you’re looking for air conditioning repair, Austin is home to Blue Air AC. Give them a call, and keep your cool.

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