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
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
** 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
** Since you’re not satisfied, what do you think you can do to
** 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.