Jun 25, 2015

7 good excuses to not {have to} involve your kids in organized sports

My son will be starting 7th grade in several weeks and he has never played on an organized sports team. My 10 year old daughter is also "sports-free".  It sounds like a confession, but it isn't a secret or something I am embarrassed about. I am not against my kids participating in organized activities, we keep our kids busy during the summer months with classes and camps.  Nor am I inexperienced in the world of competitive sports.  I spent more than 7 years of my life on a team.  As a child I swam on a competitive swim team and in High school I was a swimmer and Water Polo player. 

Peer-pressure is a real thing with adults as well as kids!  Only with adults they pressure you to sign your kids up for soccer, football or little league so you too can find your evenings and weekends taken over by sports.  I am surrounded by friends and family that started their little ones at age 5 and 6 on little league and soccer teams.  Some even encouraged (pressured) me to put my kids on a team, spouting the well know "facts" that kids on teams get along better with other kids, are better students, have higher IQs, are more likely to go to college, have better sportsmanship, are more confident, are more physically fit, are less likely to be obese, etc. etc. et al.

I do have a confession to make: I don't really enjoy watching sports.  I REALLY don't enjoy watching 3-9 year old kids play sports.  I often feel like someone is going to throw me out of America for saying it, but it is true.  I don't get the idea of competition and the pressures associated with it as a healthy developmental choice to make for your kids.  But just because I didn't want to do it, doesn't mean I am immune to peer pressure.  I found myself lying to people, saying we were going to sign our kids up "next year" to just get them to stop telling me all the reasons why I was missing out.  If you are like me, and you are seriously considering giving in to the peer pressure by signing your little person up for soccer or little league to get your friends and family off your back,  let me help you out with some great "facts" of your own.

1. It may not do what you think it does
Most of the research findings about sports helping school work, IQ and mental health was done on adolescents over the age of 13.  Mostly in High school and school sports. Not on children. Which means that sports may not have this type of impact on your kids at all.  If 35 million kids are playing organized sports in America, we should have the most intelligent and well adjusted kids in the world, the fact that we don't should indicate that the "positive" results of organized sports may be a little overstated.

2. It limits time for free-play
 There are multiple studies that show that family culture (how active parents are with the children) as well as the amount of free-play kids participate in are better indicators of physical health and development than organized sports.

3. It infringes on family time
The one thing that has the greatest positive impact in regards to confidence, self-esteem and healthy interpersonal skills, is actually sitting down as a family at the dinner table consistently. This is especially important between the ages of 5 and 15.  Ironically, sports often interfere with that practice. 

4. Ain't Nobody got time for that!
Let's face it, sports can take up an obscene amount of time.  It becomes your everything.  The more involved you get, the fewer hours you spend at home.  Your child becomes comfortable eating every meal in the car, as well as doing homework in between practice and games.  If you have more than one child you will never be home.  Ever.  In my humble opinion a child's primary jobs are healthy emotional development and school work.  Sports often take priority over both of those things.

5. You don't want your kids to get hurt
Statistics show that sports related injuries are the second leading cause of emergency room visits for children. Protect your child's joints, bones, muscles and tendons and let them wait until High School to start damaging their body.

6. Your kid is not likely to make it a career
This is my favorite cited reason for parents justifying spending literally 20 hours a week at sports related activities... to get that scholarship or to consider a future in the sport.  The odds of getting a college scholarship in your sport of choice really isn't all that great, as in, only 1-2% of high school athletes get those scholarships.  In 2012 there were around 15,000 professional athletes in America.  Take a moment and consider those odds... 35 million kids playing and 15,000 professional athletes with jobs.  Those aren't good odds. 

7. Your kids can learn cooperation and teamwork somewhere else
Your kids can learn how to cooperate with others and the value of teamwork in many places other than a competitive sport.  At home, at school, at church, in a club or other organization like Girl Scouts or Boy Scouts, in a band, any place where children have the opportunity to practice cooperative play, they can practice teamwork.  

Maybe you personally LOVE watching your kids play on the field and don't mind all of the drawbacks of sports... and most importantly, your kids LOVE playing!  Well, more power to ya, if you like it... have fun!  If like me you prefer a less chaotic existence, or maybe your kids don't love a sport you are forcing them to play... there are many good reasons to not push it.  Be free!! Let your kids ride their bikes around the block instead, take them to a park to run and climb and use their imaginations, buy a giant trampoline and let them bounce to their hearts' content in your backyard.  Playing a sport is not a "must do" for children.  But, that is just my opinion.

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