As part of National Physical Fitness and Sports Month, Brandon Capaletti, Vice President of Cisco Atheltic, has a piece about ways to help kids from getting burnt out from playing sports.
With the nature of sports becoming increasingly competitive, children are now experiencing higher pressure, more intensive training and an earlier focus on solely one sport. Because of such higher concentration in one sport, these children are also at increased risk of injury — and eventual burnout — compared to kids who play a number of sports recreationally. “Even though 40 million kids play youth sports each year, an estimated 70 percent of them quit by age 13, and never play again!” says Parenting.org. So what can parents and coaches do about this? Are there ways to promote better youth athletics and keep kids enjoying sports? How can you help put the fun back in fun sporting play? Here are a few ideas:
Think Less about Turning the Child into a Professional Athlete
“Contrary to popular belief, most professional athletes did not start at a very young age,” says Marianne Engle, Ph.D., in her article at the Child Study Center, so it’s not as important as you might think to push your kids into sports when they’re young. Rather than forcing children to choose a sport while very young, she writes, “Kids should start when they’re developmentally ready and show interest. If a child is not physically ready, injuries may result.” How can you tell if a child is ready? Look at his or her muscular strength and coordination. “A six-year-old child who has learned to ice skate has not yet developed the more complex coordination necessary to progress to pair skating,” Engle explains.
Make Sports about Having Fun
Sports are supposed to be fun — and a child who genuinely enjoys playing a sport is much less likely to get burned out and overwhelmed by it. By helping kids find pleasure and passion through sports, you help them find a way to release stress rather than introduce a new way to create it.
Encourage Multiple Interests
Rather than forcing a child to focus on just one sport for the rest of his or her life, allow your child to pursue multiple interests. This may mean multiple sports, or it may mean adding music, clubs, etc. Make it clear to kids that they aren’t being forced to select only one sport to enjoy, but that they are welcome to pursue what they like.
Give Your Child the Power to Decide Not to Play
Just as important as encouraging multiple interests is allowing your child to decline them. If a kid strongly dislikes playing a certain sport, for example, avoid forcing him or her to continue. Being dragged into an activity will only create resentment over time — resentment that could cause major distaste for physical activity and organized sports in the future.
Don’t Be a Sports Helicopter Parent
It’s as true with little league and soccer as it is with anything else — micromanaging your child’s every move only hurts your relationship. “You might be tempted to comment on a particular play after a game, but it’s better not to say anything at all,” says Mari-Jane Williams at The Washington Post. Rather than analyzing a child’s every play, tell him or her you loved watching the game and seeing him or her in action. Let your kids know you’re proud of them and free them up to enjoy the sport.
The bottom line when it comes to kids and sports is to remember what’s most important — the health and enjoyment that sports give your kids. Keep this as your priority, and you’ll avoid creating an unhealthy focus on one sport or causing your kids to be more susceptible to sports related injuries.
Brandon Capaletti is the Vice President of Cisco Athletic, a Maryland-based athletic apparel manufacturer that designs, produces and distributes custom uniforms for 18 different sports including basketball, soccer, and baseball.