The Value of Sports Participation

Posted on Posted in DrDownload

I spent the weekend immersed in my children’s sports: high school football,travel soccer and now my youngest wants to sign up for gymnastics. We were on the go continuously! Is all this really healthy?

In my heart, I know that team sports are a wonderful gift to most children. The opportunity to learn to play as a team, to practice good sportsmanship, to get out from behind the TV and be an active participant rather than a passive spectator…these are all wonderful things.

I also know that sitting on the sidelines watching my children open the gift of team participation, I am often sitting next to parents who see things differently than I do. It’s hard to listen to parents who yell at their children, not to mention at the coaches and umpires, for making a mistake. It breaks my heart to see the tearful four year old who isn’t ready to leave the sideline but who has parents who are pushing him to “get his head in the game.”  I struggle to see some kids balance several sports with academics and friendships, and I wonder when do they have some ‘down time.’

As the season’s sports schedule heats up, you may be watching your favorite college team and rocking an infant at home, and this blog holds only a hint of interest for you. Or you may be like me:  schlepping the kids from field to field for practice and games. Take a minute to reflect on the kind of gift you want your children to open with the opportunity to play a sport. Baseball great, Cal Ripken, Jr. had a thought or two that made me stop and reflect on what it means for kids to play on a team. Click here for a link to his thoughts in a video clip for KidsHealth.

“Return the game to the kids!”

“Sports can teach us a lot about how to succeed and fail in life.”

I think there’s wisdom in both those ideas. There’s so much value in team sports when a child is old enough and ready to participate.  I’m more certain than ever with my children that I want to get it right when it comes to team sports as part of my committment to their health and well being.  I always want to ask ourselves the hard questions:  Is this sports participation for me or for my child?
Do I support my child as an athlete and his coach as the leader of the team?  Am I careful not to push either?  Do I bring common sense to the training process and try to help my child create a good balance? Am I allowing the team’s loss teach my children as much as winning does?
With those things in mind, I say we go out there and “Play ball!”
~Gayle Schrier Smith, MD
(and her Partners In Pediatrics who edit from the sidelines of practice.)

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