Kids and Sports: Something for Everyone

Kids and Sports: Something for Everyone

Participation in sports benefits kids both physically and emotionally. Here's how to support your children in whatever sport they choose.

By Diane Griffith, Staff Writer, myOptumHealth

Are you tired of seeing your child parked on the sofa, a bag of chips in one hand and the remote in the other? You both know that time could be better spent, but how do you motivate your child to become more active?

If you haven't done so already, consider having your child get involved in sports. The rewards are many, including multiple health benefits.

 

Benefits from participating in a sport
The American Heart Association recommends that children and teens be physically active for at least 60 minutes each day. Exercise like the kind they get when they play a sport can help kids keep a healthy weight plus build muscle and strengthen bones. It can also help protect them against a number of future health risks, including:

  • Coronary artery disease
  • Stroke
  • Obesity
  • High cholesterol
  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes

In addition to the health benefits, there are other great reasons for your child to play a sport. Playing a sport helps boost self-confidence and self-esteem. And research shows that participating in sports helps kids improve their:

  • Focus
  • Reflexes
  • Problem-solving skills
  • School performance
  • Chances of finishing high school and going on to college
  • Relationships with adults
  • Abilities to learn teamwork

Overcoming the obstacles
If your child hesitates to become involved in team sports, find out why. Kids sometimes avoid team sports because they:

  • Simply don't like them
  • Aren't competitive
  • Are overweight and feel self-conscious about how they look
  • Doubt their skills and abilities
  • Are afraid of being judged by teammates and coaches

If these concerns are keeping your child from being active, stress that it's not necessary to join a team. There are many individual sports to choose from, such as:

  • Swimming
  • Gymnastics
  • Running
  • Martial arts
  • Golf
  • Fencing
  • Bowling
  • Skiing
  • Dancing (Although not technically a sport, performing ballet and other types of dance offers many of the same advantages.)

A sport for everyone
If the sports pickings are slim at your child's school, try to find other sporting opportunities in your community. Look for neighborhood softball leagues, soccer teams, and cheerleading programs.

Also find a sport your child feels excited about. Your child may or may not like the same sports you do. So remember, unless your child has a personal interest in playing, he or she will not have much chance to succeed.

Getting started
Before beginning, your child will need a sports physical.

If your child has a genuine interest in a sport but doesn't make the team, don't let it end there. Find other outlets, such as intramural leagues, programs through the local parks and recreation department, or even informal pickup games in your neighborhood.

Here's how you can help your child succeed in sports:

  • Support your child's efforts. Show up at the games and be a cheerleader.
  • Praise your child for a game well played. Be sincere. Overdoing it defeats the purpose and the praise loses its meaning.
  • Make sure your child is having fun. If your child isn't enjoying the activity or seems stressed, talk about the problem. It might be that the sport just isn't for your child. If so, discuss what he or she might like to do instead.
  • Don't criticize your child's efforts. If your child strikes out each time at bat, give praise for that great catch he or she made in the outfield instead.
  • Don't compare your child's talents. Both negative and positive comparisons to another child on the team can have a negative psychological impact on your child.
  • Show your child love and support. Regardless of performance, always let your child know how proud you are of his or her efforts.

Focus on strengths
If your child spent last season warming the bench, it makes sense that he or she might not be enthused about taking on another sport. Reassure your child that it's rare for a person to excel in all sports. Point out that even his or her favorite major league pitcher often strikes out. That's because he focuses on his talents instead of his weaknesses - dedicating more time to perfecting his fastball than improving his batting average. Help your child identify his or her strengths. They might be apparent, or your child might have to try a variety of sports before finding his or her niche.

Sources:

  • American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. Weightbearing exercise for women and girls. Accessed: 08/20/2010
  • New York University Child Study Center. Kids and sports. Accessed: 08/20/2010
  • American Heart Association. Physical activity and children. Accessed: 08/20/2010
  • New York University Child Study Center. Sports: more than just fun. Accessed: 08/20/2010
  • New York University Child Study Center. Enticing the reluctant athlete. Accessed: 08/20/2010
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. How much activity do children need? Accessed: 08/20/2010
  • National Heart Blood and Lung Institute. Physical activity and your heart. Accessed: 08/20/2010

Copyright © 2011 myOptumHealth.