Competition and Kids

Are Competitive Games Helpful or Harmful for Children?

Benefits

Participating in sports provides both concrete and abstract benefits. Children who participate in sports develop self-discipline, learn to get along with others and the importance of working together, learn to control their emotions and take pride in their accomplishments. Children who participate in sports do better in school than their peers who do not participate in extracurricular activities. Participating in sports with supportive parents and coaches helps a child learn to deal with stress in a positive way.

Drawbacks

A parent who puts too much pressure on a child's performance or a coach who yells excessively or treats the players badly can make competitive sports a negative situation for a child. The child may become physically ill before a competition or lose all enjoyment for a sport he previously loved if his parents or coaches create a stressful environment. Once the child has a negative experience, he may have trouble dealing with stressful situations throughout his life.

Considerations

Participating in sports helps children learn to deal with both internal pressure, which is self-inflicted, and external pressure, which comes from coaches, parents and teammates. These are important skills to have, but the process of developing them can be stressful for both you and your child. To help your child stick with the sport during this time, be realistic with your expectations and help your child manage his expectations as well. Maintaining a realistic mindset helps prevent your child from becoming frustrated. It is also best to stick with coaches who place an emphasis on building skills rather than winning at all costs.

Expert Advice

Dealing with stress associated with competition is the biggest obstacle facing young competitors. As a parent, you can help your child learn to manage stress by encouraging him to practice deep breathing and muscle relaxation before a competition, stressing the importance of realistic expectations, and ensuring that he participates in other fun, noncompetitive activities in his free time.

Reasons Parents Push Children in Sports

Performance Expectations

For some parents, nothing but the best will do. With high performance expectations, parents can even become abusive toward kids as they participate in organized sports, according to Terry Linhart, youth pastor and author, writing at Terrylinhart.com. Parents with high performance expectations can set high requirements for children. If children fail to meet expectations, due to mistakes or simply not having the skills or talents necessary, parents will have difficulty accepting children’s limitations.

Big Dreams

Parents with a flawed focus might emphasize a child’s athletic development at the expense of the child’s overall development, warns Larry Lauer with the Association for Applied Sport Psychology. In this situation, a parent might have goals of collegiate scholarships, a professional career or even the Olympics for a child. These big dreams can create excessive pressure on the child to perform to achieve the goals set by the parent. If the child falls short, guilt and self-esteem problems might result.

Vicarious Motivations

If parents never realized personal goals and aspirations on the sports field, they might seize the opportunity vicariously through children, counsels Bill Cole with the International Mental Game Coaching Association. Vicarious pursuits as a sports parent can lead to pushing and pressing a child to attain goals the parent has always nurtured. These goals are the parent’s goals, but not always the child’s goals. A parent might push the child in inappropriate ways, exhibiting unsportsmanlike behavior or undermining the coaches.

Appropriate Pushing

When parents support and encourage children appropriately, the parent allows the child to choose the sport according to the child’s interests or skills. Whatever the child’s chosen sport, the parent will support and encourage the child to perform within the child’s abilities. The parent also models appropriate conduct and behavior for the child to see and emulate. Parents also encourage the child to respect and trust coaches. Supportive parents also understand that mistakes happen, while supporting children to recover from and learn from mistakes.

The Parental Influence on Children Playing Sports

Encouragement

Parents influence their sports-playing children by providing encouragement. According to educational experts at the University of Illinois, encouraging kids to have fun, learn the basics and make new friends are all beneficial effects of parental influence on childhood sports play. For example, a parent who encourages her child to focus on having a ball on the soccer field instead of emphasizing the need to win will provide a positively encouraging environment. This can foster enjoyment and enthusiasm for the sport.

Expectations

Whether they are positive or negative, parental expectations for youth sports have a influence on children. The American Academy of Pediatrics's Healthy Children website notes that adults who set unrealistic expectations for children playing sports can make a child's athletic experience unhealthful. This can include the situation where the child feels like a failure if she can't meet lofty adult expectations for performance. However, parents who set realistic expectations, based on the child's age and developmental level, can help their child feel pride and success in her accomplishments.

Modeling

Parents are role models for their children at sports games and athletic practices. Modeling appropriate behaviors can make the difference between him treating his coach, team and the referee with respect or being a poor sport. For example, if you feel the referee is incompetent, don't show your anger, yell or shout. Instead, calmly ask to speak to the referee, or the coach, and explain to your child that sometimes people have different opinions. Modeling positive behaviors can also take the form of being a good loser. Congratulate the other team members and coach whether your child's team wins or loses. This will help him to understand the importance of good sportsmanship.

Safety

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 2.6 million kids visit emergency departments every year because of sports-related injuries. Parents can positively influence kids when it comes to sports safety by openly discussing proper equipment use and the consequences for engaging in risky athletic actions such as overly aggressive play. Additionally, you can also show your child how to keep safe while playing sports by keeping yourself safe. For example, if you go on a family bike outing, wear your helmet and follow the rules of the road.

How to Donate Sports Equipment to Children in Need

Make a list of all the sports equipment you have available for donation. This can include everything from soccer cleats to playground equipment. Determine the fair market value of each piece of equipment, or the amount someone would pay for the used items. For help determining this, call local used sports equipment stores and see what price they are selling similar items for.

Contact local schools or other community organizations, such as The Salvation Army or Boys & Girls Clubs, to see whether they accept donations. Let them know what equipment you have available. Some organizations might not accept everything you have, but can be a source to lead you to other possible organizations.

Set up a time with the organization to deliver the donations. Make out another list with all items donated and their fair market value. Include a statement on the list that you are donating these items to the specific organization. Write out your full name and the specific organization’s name. When you deliver the equipment, have an authorized representative sign the paper so you can use it to claim a tax donation.

Tip

Don’t forget those old running shoes or non-cleat athletic shoes. Nike offers program called ReUSE A SHOE. This program takes any old sneaker, regardless of brand, and breaks it down to be used for surfaces such as running tracks, basketball courts and tennis courts. Most Nike stores have drop boxes for shoe donations.

The Signs of Pushing Kids Too Hard in Sports

Overuse and Overtraining Injuries

If your child is constantly hurting herself while playing sports, you might be pushing her too hard. Overuse injuries are the most common with children who are devoted to a sport, especially if they start high-intensity training at a young age. The injuries from which your child might suffer include fractures, concussions and ligament tears and these injuries are frequently the result of placing too much pressure on the child to perform, reports HealthyChildren.org.

Development of Stress and Anxiety

When parents push their children too hard in sports, it can foster stress and anxiety. In many circumstances, the child is not all that interested in participating in the sport, reports KidsHealth, but the parent pushes him in that direction. Some children participate in too many sports, which can have a similar effect. Children who are too busy can feel tired, depressed or anxious. They can also complain of headaches and fall behind on their schoolwork. Overall, it is up to the parent to decide whether the child is being pushed too hard and is trying to do too much.

Decline in Academic Performance

When a child has too much to do after school, it could hinder academic performance. Kids require a healthful diet and a routine to maximize their learning ability, and if your child is always on the go, she will not have enough time in the day, suggests HealthyChildren.org. If you see your child's grades starting to slip, her dedication to sports might be hindering her nutrition, preventing her from getting enough sleep and not providing her with enough time to do her homework.

Poor Skill Development

Having a parent push too hard in one sport can hinder a child's ability in other sports. Young children generally build their skills during unstructured play, which allows them to explore and experiment. Forcing your child to specialize in only one sport at too young of an age can lead to an uneven skill development. You might notice that she is uninterested in other sports or that her skills in these sports are lacking. This can also hurt her socialization skills, cause her to burn out at a young age and can limit his potential in other sports in which he wishes to participate as he gets older.

Kids' Extended Summer Sports Camps in Chicago, Illinois

Multi-sport Camps

An extended sports camp is an excellent opportunity to expose your child to a variety of sports. The University of Chicago and Hi-Five Sports Camp both offer eight-week camps for boys and girls grades K through 8. The University of Chicago camp offers morning, afternoon and full-day options, and sports include basketball, soccer, softball and volleyball with additional options for archery, track, tennis and swimming. Hi-Five Sports Camp is a full-day camp in the west loop that teaches a variety of team sports as well as golf, tennis and tae kwon do.

Camps for Girls

Although most sports camps welcome boys and girls, there are often only a few girls in a group, which can be intimidating for girls who are new to sports. Game On! Sports Camp 4 Girls offers a different option. Campers learn a wide variety of sports, from basketball and soccer to yoga and martial arts. Camp is all-day and can run from three to six weeks. Another camp, Girls in the Game, runs four-week summer camps for girls aged 7 through 18 and focuses on leadership and health in addition to teaching various sports and fitness activities.

Choreographed Athletics

Gymnastics and cheerleading are a lot of fun and can also be highly competitive and teach your child about discipline. Lakeshore Academy of Artistic Gymnastics runs a half-day camp, morning or afternoon, one to even five weeks. The camp also features a rock-climbing component and is open to boys and girls aged 5 to 12. Chicago Xplosion Allstars has a six-week, all-day cheerleading camp on the south side for boys and girls grades pre-K through 10. The camp runs academic lessons in the mornings and has extended childcare options.

Alternatives for Kids Who Aren't in to Sports

If your kids shy away from athletics, think outside the box for ways to keep them active. Martial arts are great as a fitness option and also emphasize nonphysical alternatives to handling conflict. HealthKick Kung Fu holds a nine-week morning summer camp in Lincoln Park, and TAC Karate on the south side has an all-day camp for kids aged 5 to 13 that runs up to eight weeks and includes field trips and outdoor activities. For adventurous kids, CircEsteem runs a circus camp for ages seven and up. You can enroll your child for individual weeks or for the full seven-week session.