Sports can be such a fun time for your children, or it could be a stress that they don’t need at a young age. Here is a list of some pros and cons of getting your kids involved in sports too early on. Keep in mind that a lot will depend on your child’s age and the uniqueness of your child. Both physical, emotional, and social development play into your choice of when to get them involved in sports.
Pros of Sports Involvement Early On:
1. Your Child Will Be In Better Shape
Sports will keep your child active and off the couch some of the time. The average American child is overweight and out of shape. Getting them involved in sports may be a way that gets them to exercise more.
2. Sports Will Teach Your Child
Sports may teach them some technical skills that they may be interested in learning. Maybe a backhand in tennis or catching that ground ball in baseball is something you don’t know about, or maybe don’t have the time to teach them. Sports may be an outlet for some children to learn from coaches skilled in different areas from you.
3. Sports Can Be Great For Your Child Socially
Some kids may have a great time with friends at practices and competitive events. If it’s fun, it may just be a good thing. Plus it will help your children learn social skills like sharing, team work, and communication.
Cons of Sports Involvement Early On:
Your family’s schedule just got tougher. When you start following a rigorous practice and game schedule, you may find it’s more hassle than it’s worth. It can drain the fun out of that carefree stage of childhood, especially summers. If you have multiple children in different sports, you have just accepted a full-time job as a taxi cab driver. This is one huge drawback and worth considering.
2. It Could Take The Fun Out Of Playing
Sports can take the fun out of carefree playing that so many children need. Being an educator, athlete, and mom, I believe we need to not over look the importance of unorganized play. When I used to coach at the college level, I’d be asked about running form, and my response was to go to the local playground and watch kids playing. That is where you will see great running form. Sadly, goal oriented adults often get involved too quickly and take that natural gait and natural ability to free play away from the child.
Psychologist David Elkind and author of the Hurried Child says it best when he says, “Since people nowadays tend to overlook the vital role of leisurely play in healthy development, it is in danger of becoming an unaffordable luxury. Parents fill kids’ time with after-school tutoring and organized sports that cut into self-initiated play time.”
3. No One Likes A Crazy Parent
Overly competitive parents can take the fun out of the game/sport for kids. You may be sure that you are not the one pushing your young child, but what about other parents out there who are at the games and events too? My daughter wanted to run a trail run with me a few years ago. This is a fun time that we have together, taking photos, making a video together each year with music so we can remember the big day. She also happened to finish very high up in the results, and we chose to run it the last three years together.
This last year a few days before the race, I was informed by a parent neighbor that her and her daughter were not only entered, but planned on beating my daughter; if not this year another year. Because we enter this for fun and because of my daughter’s young age, we just ignored it and planned to enjoy the day as we had done in the past years. It just so happens they finished 2 hours behind us, not that I was looking, but I must say I felt where the term “soccer mom syndrome” comes from after I got that email.
When the time came again this year for her to either join junior high cross country or not, this just confirmed to me that she is too young. She loves to run and also wasn’t yet interested in the rigorous early morning practice schedule. This was a relief to me because I see how parents can get too competitive and place that pressure on their young kids.
So there are some pros and cons of early sports involvement, but the beauty of this is that you get to decide for yourself what is best for your kids. What is ideal for one family, might not be for another. Even in the family unit, what works for one might not for another child. Consider their age and emotional development in addition to physical development. With young kids, always evaluate if they are truly playing and having fun. There will be plenty of time for serious sport involvement when they are older and can choose for themselves. What age worked best for your kids? Comment below!