The Blog

As a newspaper columnist, Nancy Devlin, Ph.D. has written over 700 articles on subjects related to education and parenting. Welcome to her Classroom!

COMPETITIVE SPORTS

Many  parents  express  concern  about  how  to  help  their
children  who are involved in competitive sports.  They  need to
find  an alternative to the usual, “Do your   best” or  “Get  out
there   and   win”.

In their planning,  gym teachers attempt to create a balance
between individual and team sports but team sports always seem to
take precedence.   I believe the best programs are the ones which
help  the  children  develop individual  physical  fitness.   The
skills  the  children  develop will help  them  throughout  their
lifetime  and  they can continue to develop them  by  themselves.
Programs  in  European schools seem to concentrate more  on  this
aspect of physical development than American schools do.  An end-
of-the-year  program  in Denmark I saw had all  of  the  children
demonstrating  calisthenics.  The children had great control  of
their bodies and were enjoying themselves and each one was a star
to his or her parents.

Programs  that  concentrate  more on team  sports  seem  too
exclusive.   The  natural athletes are chosen to play,  excluding
the  remainder  of the children who would also benefit  from  the
exercise. It hurts not being one of the chosen few. A quote  from
an  article  written  for  a high  school  newspaper  illustrates
this  very  poignantly:  “Most  articles one reads  about  school
sports   deal with  the superstars who,  in one way  or  another,
excel  in  some aspect of a particular sport.   But  what  about
those  athletes  who are only mediocre or those  that  try  their
best,  but  still wind up on the bench the entire  season.    And
what  about those poor souls who  went out for a team and  worked
their  butts  off only to  have their  hearts  broken  when  they
were  cut  from  the  team.   For  a change  we  would  like  to
acknowledge   the  other  side  of  the  glamour  of   scholastic
athletics:   the  people  who were cut….  There is  a  lot   of
untapped  potential in those who are cut.  So  next  time  you’re
watching  the superstar Jock score fifty points in the big  game,
think  about  the poor guy in the stands who  just  wasn’t  quite
good enough…..”

Parent involvement with competitive sports should be to encourage the children and to be ready to help them deal with rejection when they lose or fail to make the team.  It   is important  that  parents not become overinvolved and  set  higher  goals than the children can achieve.  Discouraged children do not enjoy  themselves  and  the  main purpose of  being  involved  in competitive  sports  is  for children to feel  good  about  their bodies and themselves. I think it is also important for parents to monitor  how  the  coach approaches the  children.   The  message
should not be given that winning is everything and that  anything
goes if it achieves that end.

Parents can best help their children by using these words of
encouragement:
**  You’re making progress
**  You’ll make it.
**  You’re improving in ____.
**   You may not feel you’ve reached your goal but look  how  far
you’ve come.
**   Since you’re not satisfied,  what do you think you can do to
improve?
**  How do you feel about it?
**  It looks as if you enjoyed yourself.
I  encourage you to use them with your children instead  of ,”Get
out  there and win” and to monitor these activities to  determine
that your children are learning good sportsmanship and team spirit
and not the opposite.  Otherwise competitive sports and games may
be doing more harm than good.

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