Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Sport-a-phobia

Yesterday I watched my downstairs neighbor/mom load her children into her mini-van. Along with all the kids, she threw in a cooler, two bags of balls, helmets, pads and other sport-related paraphenalia.
As I watched, I wondered. Is it really worth it to have your children involved in sports? What does it really teach them in the long run? I do support some of the things children can learn while involved in organized sports such as teamwork and sportsmanship, because those virtues will actually be uselful later in life and can be applied in other areas, but overall I find sports to be physically, emotionally, and financially draining for children. I feel like they could be using their time in other ways, alongside their parents to instill more important values than what they are learning while running around on a field. I know, I am in an apparent minority.

Over the years, I have allowed Jacob to try different sports; he has played baseball, basketball, and soccer and I have found that after the first few practices/games he was already feeling frustrated at his performance (even if it was great) and not wanting to go to practices. Not to mention the time it took away from our family time while we were hauling him all over three or four days a week to games and such, sometimes not arriving home until after 8, which in my home, if you were born of me you better be tucked in and on your way to Sleepy's House by 8 pm. He was often tired in school the following day and his grades definitely suffered during these times.

I struggle now with deciding whether or not to allow my sons to play fall ball because we are surrounded by neighbors who place all their worth on how far their little boys can throw a football or how many baskets he can shoot. I don't want my boys to feel left out but at the same time I do not want to foster in them that they must be always trying to be better, faster, quicker on the field. My sons feel like they are missing out on something special. It is understandable from a child's point of view, that, for the most part, it is fun to play sports.
I argue that we should look at the state of our educational system, the worth we place on athletes and sporting events vs. academic ability. This starts at such a young age; some sports allow for the child to begin playing at age 3 (!!) and goes on into the professional arena with NBA and NFL.
As I see it, I would much rather pay for instumental lessons or perhaps even Martial Arts (though this would greatly depend on the instructor), as I feel it engages other parts of the brain and teaches something other than competition and rivalry.
I watch my neighbor when she returns from a game with her children (boys and girls). She is exuberant and jubilent if they have won thereby, in my opinion, sending the message that winning matters. If their team has lost, she is scolding and reprimanding them all the way down the walk and still after the door closes behind her. It would appear that she places her worth as a mother on how well her kids can perform and outplay. The looks on the kids' faces are of utter defeat and misery. How can that be good for a child?

I place my worth as a mother on how respectful and mannered my children are, how well they can READ, watching them handle responsibility effectively, etc. I feel like, when my son is in the 8th grade, if he still can't remember to bring/do his HW without me nagging on him, I have failed in teaching him what he really needs to know to survive in the real world--to think and do for himself. Accountability and consequences--of the natural variety.
I still don't know what we will ultimately decide to do this fall, but I guarantee, I would be happy with guitar lessons and Spanish lessons. Jacob and Max, that is a different story entirely.

Let me emphasize that I am not in any way saying that kids don't need exercise, and of course some parents have their children involved in sports for that reason. I just feel like exercise can definitely come from another way than in competition.

14 comments:

Jen M. said...

I'm with you. Three of my four are involved in activities, but because they beg for them. The parents who take an inordinate amount of pride at their kids' sports accomplishments, like it was their own? PATHETIC.

niobe said...

I completely agree about competitive sports. In so many cases, it seems that the parents, like your neighbor, (though I find it's often the dads) become overly invested in the child's performance and what should be fun becomes a high-pressure ordeal where the child feels s/he is never able to live up to the parents' expectations.

Aliki2006 said...

I agree with you. My son is completely a NON-athlete, although he is competitive in other ways. Sometimes I do wish he liked sports more--not so he'd have some drive to win and/or to appease what society seems to expect him to do, but so he'd have fun with a team. But then I watch the 2nd graders at recess playing soccer and yelling at each other and tripping each other up and I'm glad he's the kid NOT doing that.

thirtysomething said...

aliki--I know. One of my sons, the older, is WAY more competitive than the younger, despite my efforts to squelch this behavior. In games on the playground, he is the one yelling and screaming. My younger son is content to play with his sisters, play with cars and trucks, and...even...READ.

Magpie said...

If my child tries to take up soccer, I think I'll have to disown her.

painted maypole said...

I am with you on the sports thing. My frien, a single mother with3 kids, looked me straight in the eye and said "don't ever put your kids in soccer. You will never see the inside of your house again."

I think if parents treat it right the kids can learn a lot (in a positive way) from both winnning and losing, but unfortunately too many parents and coaches are like your neighbor. I have not put MQ in anything except swim lessons, and will let her decide if she wants to do something. I do not like the idea of sitting through endless games.

As an actress and drama teacher I will tell you that creative drama and play productions can teach kids the same kind of working together and personal responsibility and pride that sports do, in a much different and non-athletic environment.

Kyla said...

Very interesting. My son isn't involved in sports yet, but if he shows interest, I'll allow it. I think you've highlighted the main issue I have with children and sports...the parents. Parents who put stock in whether their child wins or loses, instead of how the game is played. Parents who let that affect they was the relate to their children. Sports, like all childhood activities, should be fun an enjoyable. I see the same type of parents involved in music and drama, and just about any other activity kids can be involved in. If they would step back, I think all of the kids would have more fun.

slouching mom said...

Ben takes tae kwon do and loves it. Jack plays soccer and loves it. The second, and I mean the second, either wants to quit, he will be allowed to quit. And never, ever more than one activity per season. I don't like being in the car all the time, and I don't think it's good for our family.

Amy York said...

I can definitely see your point... and struggle with the same thing myself. Mine are still young (4 & 6 yr old boys) and I want to instill the important stuff in them before sports... But I also don't want them to feel left out. I wonder if there is a way to balance it all out and emphasize the fun of it rather than the winning? Hopefully we'll find the perfect compromise. I definitely will not force them to do anything or not allow them to quit. I'll take my cues from them... but I like SM's take on it ~ one sport per season at a time.

Amy York said...

Email me at joyfish01 @ gmail.com ~ I'll spare everyone the gory details on your comment form. ;)

blooming desertpea said...

Competition is only healthy if practiced in a moderate way. I agree with you that sports in the US are made too important in schools. I feel that the kids are drilled to win, they are drilled to compete. What does that teach them - that you're only a valuable person if you win? There are more important values to be taught ...

The rule in our house regarding activities is - one sport and/or one musical instrument. None of the kids is forced to join in anything but if they decide to join, they need to stick with it at least for a year.

Joy, of course said...

Oh I could write a book on this. Here's the problem. If you don't put your kids in sports early and they decide later they want to play, they will be worlds behind the other kids. This happened with Brandon. By the time he found out what he was interested in, it was too late. So now he just plays ball in the neighborhood with the other teenagers which is fine by me, but I know he is disappointed because he feels like he never had a chance.

I don't know what the answer is to this. So many people I know, their whole families lives revolve around football season (or whatever season) and that can't be good. I mean what about your other kids? And what about you? Don't you have a right to not go insane?

See a book. I could go on and on.

Good topic.

mitzh said...

I agree with what desertpea said.
My daughter is only four and she's going to school by next year.

If ever the day will come she wants to join a certain sport or any activity for that matter, I'll support her but also remind her that in this life it is really not about the winning or losing, it is about how you play the game and how it made you the person you are in the end.

Christine said...

i agree with a lot of people here. i wrote a post once about over involved kids not just in sports but in other things. for the first time we signed up my girl for dance (non competition) and i am scared a bit. but it is once a week, no costumes and make up, and it is after a family meal and before bed time. wish us luck!