Sport is an excellent tool for teaching kids life skills including teamwork and communication, whilst it also improves athleticism and health. However, despite such benefits, it has perhaps come too easy for those involved in youth sport to forget just why children are taking part in the first place. So, has youth sport become to competitive?
Coaches and parents have a responsibility to ensure that children enjoy themselves when participating in sport, as it is easy for stress to arise if things become too serious. Participating in highly competitive sport can have a detrimental impact when it comes to mental and emotional well-being, however there are an increasing number of harmful practices surrounding youth sport. As a result, more and more youngsters are choosing to give up competing in sports leagues or having private coaching sessions, many before they have even had a chance to decide as to whether or not they really enjoy the particular sport.
As well as this, an increasing number of organisations and authorities are also contributing to the heightened pressure on young athletes today, regularly referring to children as “prospects” or “wonderkids”. The fact that kids are being scouted at an increasingly fledgling age demonstrates somewhat as to just why youth sport has become so competitive. In fact, by the age of just 17, around 70% of the top young athletes have given up playing team sports. The main reason as to why boys and girls stop participating is due to a lack of enjoyment.
The fact is that children miss out on so much when they stop their involvement in sport, with research having concluded that higher levels of family satisfaction, health and academic achievement are achieved by those who participate in organised sports. As well as this, traits including sportsmanship and leadership are also picked up along the way when involved in sport.
So, just why are more and more coaches and parents putting greater emphasis upon the competitive side of sport? Changing the Game Project is an organisation that works to ensure that sport is a rewarding experience for children, with their belief being that the process of “adulfitication” plays a major role. This effectively means that the adults involved in youth sport are competing against each other through children. As a result, unrealistic expectations are often put on youngsters.
Taking this into consideration, the question is now how do we combat the negative effects that the overcompetitive nature of youth sport bring? Coaches and parents should not focus on developing professional athletes, instead leaning towards improving skills and rewarding milestones. In doing so, there must also be a strong focus upon enjoyment and personal development, which will ensure that an increasing number of kids remain active.
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