My kids are getting excited for the first day of school. Not so much about going to class and doing homework, but because they enjoy being with their friends and playing school sports.
I have two kids in middle school this year. They both want to play school sports (cross country and football). As I was browsing the school’s athletic website for information, there was a link to a TED talk. The athletic director encouraged parents visiting the web site to take a minute to watch the clip,called the Changing the Game Project.
From this 14-minute video, I learned seven-of-10 kids drop out of organized sports by the time they turn 13. Kids are told they need to play one sport year-round in order to have a spot on the team and to be competitive. The parents and coaches pressure young athletes to focus on winning and perfection, rather than enjoying the sport.
My kids have felt this pressure. When I asked my 7-year-old if she wanted to play soccer this year, she said, “I can’t play soccer, I don’t know how. And besides, all of the other kids have already been playing for years.” My sister’s kids also experienced the intense pressure to perform well in sports. After nearly a lifetime of playing baseball, my nephew decided to give it up in high school. He said he was burnt out.
The end of the TED talk encouraged parents to change how they treat their kids’ sporting events. Instead of breaking down their performance, play-by-play, all we need to say is, “I love watching you play.” That’s it.
I don’t live under any illusion that my kids will become professional athletes. I just want my kids to enjoy being physically active. I want them to try new sports, even if they are not good at them. Even so, I am guilty of putting too much pressure on my kids, and talking about how they could improve. I was glad to learn a better way to respond to my kids.
How do you feel about youth sports? Has the pressure to “be the best” discouraged your kids from playing?