Sports And Children

We no longer live in a society where kids run around actively throughout the neighborhood. The sandlot baseball games, pick up games in the park, and innocence in the children are gone in sports. Today children are more interested in television, computers, and video games and parents are afraid of letting their children run around the streets because of kidnapping. Kids are simply no longer interested in physical activity. A poll of over a thousand parents and one with students was done and the results show they blame inactivity on lack of time and homework. Whatever the cause is, we can see results with studies throughout the last few years.

* 22% of children are physically active everyday of the week.

* 49% in grade 4-12 are moderately to vigorously active.

* 34% attend Physical Education classes daily.

* 23% dont have these classes offered, because no all states have educational requirements for PE and some have budget cuts in the program.

* 54% of children ages 6-11 are obese, with the obesity rates till on the rise (Hellmich 1997).

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There are a number of federal, state, and local school programs to help students reach fitness goals. The missing link in having physically fit children seems to be the parents. They are allowing children to remain sedentary with the television and computers. Not enough children have parents who monitor their childs activity schedules, expose them to physical activity, and who serve as role models in being active themselves. Sports involvement and competition is very important in a childs life, but sometimes can go too far. Physical activity offers both positive and negative aspects in a childs life.

Physical activity is an integral part of the learning process at all grade levels/ Unfit children develop low opinions of themselves, dislike activity, and develop antisocial attitudes. Children need the physical and mental benefits of sports. Kids involved in sports will physically feel better about their bodies by being fit, they are less likely to have the risk of obesity later in life, and more likely to learn new skills (Krucoff 1998). Mentally, sports stimulate the intellectual development, sharpen motor skills, provide emotional and social growth, help with depression, and increase self-confidence. A non-active child that becomes active in a sport program find increased energy, longer attention span, improved self-esteem, and better communication skills (Sports Psychology). Students learn about their bodies and want to improve them to lead a fulfilling life. Overall most children in sports enjoy themselves because they are having fun and meeting new friends. Athletics allow these children to interact with children of the same age with this similar interest thereby improving their social skills for later in life. This experience in sports will serve as a positive model to follow when approaching other challenges and obstacles throughout life.

There is a strong connection between academic success and athletics. Athletes especially in high school perform better and remain in school more than non-athletes (Krucoff 1998). In middle school, high school, and college there is an athletic eligibility grade point average. If the student doesnt make the grades, they arent entitled to participate in sports. With this push in academics students now work harder in the classroom so they can participate.

Many students have sports to thank for being a college student. Without the athletic money from the talent in the sport most children of low-income families cant afford college. These students at the college athlete level tend to be successful because of the high demands and expectations of grades. In most schools the athletic eligibility is actually higher than graduation requirements. Studies also show in high school women have sew later, lowering the risk of pregnancy and disease. Young females also have higher self-esteem and a power to say no (Krucoff 1998).
Competition is a very vital aspect of children involved in sports that offers many positive outcomes and teaches a variety of life skills. Competition is necessary for excellence and a child needs competitors who are not much better or worse at sports for this development to be essential. Without worthy opponent and challenges sports I not so much fun. The better the challenge the better opportunity a child has to go beyond his or her limits. Competition begins early in life even before a childs first birthday. There is constant competition for attention, toys, and time. Young children are bombarded with messages concerning competition often from parents (Tye 1997).

Be the best!
We want you to be #1
Have fun, its just a game
Give it your best shot
Winners never give up!
Parents expect from these messages for their child to develop a healthy competitive attitude with success and self-esteem. This is often true.

Competition is an important means in motivating children to make the most of their potential in many areas throughout life. The ultimate goal of competition is challenging oneself and to improve, the outcome does not matter and children will feel good about oneself for doing the best that they can. Competition and the winning and losing aspect of this in sports can be used to build character in and gain a degree of self-knowledge in young children. Teamwork, perseverance, commitment, dedication, sportsmanship, loyalty, self-discipline, and compassion for others are all positive traits children can learn through competition. Many are opposed to starting competition at a young age, but supporters say if it does not start at the elementary level, children wont be ready for high school. The goal is to be on the team and to get scholarship money. Teaching the skills and giving kids the experience of competition at an early age they are prepared. In order to get college scouts to come to a high school a good program is needed.

Involvement in sports and competition can also be very negative for children. In todays culture winning is believed to be everything. This may be because of parental involvement and professional sports putting a great emphasis on winning. Seventy-five percent of children in organized sports drop out by the age fourteen because of over emphasis on competition (Picon). Three out of four children wouldnt mind if no one kept score at all. They would prefer to lose and have fun than to win at all costs, but overzealous adults and parents drown voices out (Spaid 1997).
With Little League, soccer, and football programs increasing parental involvement is increasing as well. Parents watching their children compete brings out an unfamiliar intensity of emotion. They enjoy childs success much more than their own. The intensity and frequency of tantrums that many parents display at games is on the rise (Spaid 1997). Parents often yell at coaches for not recognizing talent, other parents, referees and sometime the child herself. They are believed to behave this way because they see in their children the embodiment of their own unfulfilled expectations and goals (Tye 1997). Children do not need this burden and stress; they are having enough trouble putting one foot in front of other without falling down. Too much stress can seriously affect a childs ability to focus on skills and performance and competition can be seen as a threat and not a challenge. Some parents push their children so far in sports to a point where it is more work than fun. The child may begin to feel they are playing the sport for their parents instead of for themselves. Some parents even use guilt or bribery to keep the child involved (Tye 1997).
Children cannot handle the parental pressure and stick with it to avoid disappointing these parents. Parents who over do themselves in sports make the mistake of punishing a child for a bad performance by withdrawing emotionally from him or her. The child may feel unloved because of this disgust and anger parents often portray (Sports Psychology). This can only ruin a relationship between parent and child. The field should be looked and respected as a classroom where kids are to learn and have fun. However; today peoples idea of baseball is what they see in the Major Leagues, children are expected to be a little Major League player. They lose interest because they are not ready for this pressure and feel the sport to be the only thing in their life.

Today clubs and travel teams are popular among children involved in sports. In these very competitive teams there is no emphasis on character development and equal playing time. An all out blitz for competition is shown. The young children in these leagues are pushed harder and sooner. Most of these clubs and travel teams hold tryouts and often makes cuts. This can be very harmful for young children telling them they are failure basically. Some children would do anything to be a part of this high level team, but then finds out they are not ready. Their self-esteem decreases as they spend time on the bench. Supporters say that they are giving kids what they want an opportunity to improve skills. Sociologist David Hunt opposes this view. He believes these travel teams lead children down a path where few succeed giving them a distorted system of values. There is too much emphasis on something that ends up being only an entertaining part of their live. The emphasis on interpersonal relationships and academics is lost (Billie 1998).
In addition to psychological adjustment issues children go through due to stress from sports, there is also physical injury. Sports is now the leading cause of injury among adolescents, more and more young athletes are damaging their still growing muscles and bones (Krucoff 1998). In 1996,
201,000 Children under the age 14 suffered from basketball injuries that have landed them in the hospital.

167,000 suffered injuries from football
147,000 suffered injuries from baseball
69,000 from soccer (Johnson 1998)
These injuries tend to fit the same profile. The children play on a competitive team practicing almost everyday on a year round basis. The duration and intensity is increased during training. The injury starts off as a pain or an ache but coachs and players feel they can still be active in the game. These injuries tent to be over-use injuries such as stress fractures, tendinitis, and bursitis. Children are not given the time necessary for the body to recover. Coachs and parents both dont realize children have growth tissue that adults dont, leaving them more vulnerable. These injuries were first noticed and tend to be more susceptible in boys because they play in high-risk sports. Girls are also very susceptible to injury because of the increased body fat, decrease in muscle strength, and change in alignment of body (Johnson 1998) Children are not ready at young ages to be using their muscles for vigorous physical activity.

In conclusion, sports can be beneficial to a childs self-esteem, confidence, health, and social life. When a child is an athletic environment that boosts his self-esteem, he will learn faster, enjoy himself more and perform better under competitive pressure. Competition if not used in the wrong way can be a very good thing for children. The word comes from the Latin words com and petere which mean together and seeking respectively. Competition is seeking together where your opponent is your partner, not the enemy. World records are broken all of the time because the best athletes are seeking together and challenging each other to superior performance.

Athletes usually in higher level grades do better academically as well. Parents need to get children off the couches and away from the television set starting when they are young. Parents also need to know their role as a parent on their childs athletic team. They are to be the childs best fan and leave the coaching and instructing to the coach. When a child stops having fun and dreads going to practices and games, a parent should realize they have gone to far. The child that continues to play long after the fun is gone will soon be a drop out statistic. If they have their own reasons and goals for participating, they will be more motivated to excel and be more successful.

References
Billie, K. (1998, December). What I Learned in Gym. Psychology Today, p.18.

Gobeau, D. (1998, January 23). Building character in sports. National Catholic Reporter (on-line) p.21. http://web2.searchbank.com/infotra.

Hellmich, N. (1997, July 1). Few kids get daily exercise. USA Today (on-line), p. D, 1:6. Http://proquest.umi.com/pqdweb?ts.

Johnson, K. (1998, June 2). Very Young, and Very Competitive Beyond Play. Christian Science Monitor p.1.

Krucoff, C. (1998, September 29). Encouraging kids to participate in sports. The Washington Post (on-line), p. Z20. Http://proquest.umi.com/pqdweb?ts.

Picon, D. Making the best out of youth sports. (on-line), p. 1-5. Http://ridesafeinc.com/wings/stress5.htm.

Spaid, E. (1997, June 3). Good sportsmanship declines on the sidelines amid rising tempers, leagues, and parks are insisting on parental cool. Christian Science Monitor (on-line), p. 1:3. Http://proquest.umi.com/pqdweb?ts
stress, anxiety, and energy. Sports Psychology (on-line), p. 1-4. Http://stad.dsl.n1/coach/stresscn.html.

Tye, L. (1997, September 30). Injured at an early age. Boston Globe (on-line), p. A, 1:1. Http://proquest.umi.com/pqdweb?TS.

Editorial Parents, practice sportsmanship. (1998, May 11). The Atlanta Constitution (on-line), p. A; 08. Http://proquest.umi.com/pqdweb?TS.


Education Essays