Competitive Sports at Young an Age: Effect on the Child
It is relatively popular among parents to force their children to participate in various activities, including sport. Unfortunately, it cannot always be seen as something that can benefit young children both physically and mentally. According to some estimates, a child should be at least six years or older to participate in sports properly, however, sometimes parents break the rules. Although sports can be beneficial for muscle development, they can worsen the child’s mental health.
Firstly, a mismatch in one group’s physical possibilities can lead to anxiety, stress, and ultimately the bullying from those who are more physically developed. As anticipated, sports’ goal is to have fun and discover one’s strong sides for the very young athlete. However, when a child is bullied, it can be discouraged to find themselves and enjoy their physical events (Cowden, Meyer-Weitz, & Oppong Asante, 2016). If the parent wishes to express one’s past desires to the child, it can lead to several major mental problems such as the inability to have yearnings, to express one’s feelings, etc.
If to speak more about the parents and their motivation to give children to some sports clubs, they wish that their kids would become successful and always win. However, to a child, such desires of a parent can serve as a burden and further avert the kid from doing any sports activities (Fry & Hogue, 2018). Parents put too much pressure on a child, which can lead to unhappiness, dissatisfaction, loss of interest in life, and disastrous perfectionism.
Despite all the drawbacks of sports at a young age, it can also have some positive sides. For example, participation in different physical activities can reduce the chance of getting illnesses such as obesity and those related to it. Moreover, it enhances the energy levels in a child and helps in spending it appropriately. Organized sports greatly help break the cycle of a sedentary and unhealthy lifestyle, reduce the time devoted to the media, and minimize the health risks connected to heart diseases (Rodriguez-Ayllon et al., 2019). In addition, children who are successful in the sport can experience an increase in self-worth, self-esteem and learn how to battle difficulties, which arise in life.
As for the further drawbacks of attending sports at a very young age, children have a higher risk of getting an injury. Children tend to be careless while doing sports and especially when they are getting better at it. In pursuit of perfection, a young child can break some bones, which can do permanent damage to one’s body (Rodriguez-Ayllon et al., 2019). As youth participation in physical activities increased, there was a sharp increase in sports-related injuries. The statistics estimate that each year there are several million injured children (5-10) who attend the emergency room monthly because of sports injuries.
Additionally, when the participation of young children in sports increases, injury rates increase, directly affecting the medical care system. As a consequence of physical injuries, mental ones could be developed as well. For example, when a child was eager to compete further and grow a sports career, a sudden injury can ruin its plans, causing mood swings, depression, and friends’ disconnection. Moreover, as some reports estimate, there were at least 50 fatalities in the training session because of the sport-related injuries (Vertommen, Kampen, Schipper-van Veldhoven, Uzieblo, & Van Den Eede, 2018). This rate can be considered scary because this rate is almost equal to the abuse-related fatalities among children.
The achievements of young children can be tightly tied to their self-worth in the eyes of their parents. As written in the New York Times article, parents cannot manage their feelings of frustration when a child proves to be not good enough (Rabin, 2019). For that reason, over-competition can prove to be problematic. It affects a child’s psychological health and sets an unreasonable amount of expectations in the parent’s eyes. Therefore, less athletic kids can be excluded, feel bad because of it, and lose their self-esteem due to their poor physique.
To make a child excited about doing sports is to encourage them and make sure that they are enjoying the activities they are engaged in. Because if parents force their child to be physically active without the enjoyment and passion of the kid, it can be discouraged from doing sports whatsoever. Children should get involved in the activities at a young age, but they should do it with passion as if they are playing a game and not participating.
At that particular age, children should have fun and develop their body awareness. Mindless sport can take away all the pleasure of competitive sports such as football, soccer, tennis, etc. When a coach or a teacher exclusively includes talented players in the game, they potentially overlook emerging stars, making them miserable (Rabin, 2019). Everyone develops at a different rate, so it is unfair to exclude some players from the game if they are not good enough. Moreover, the hurtful tradition of best players choosing the team should be stopped, because the children who are picked last can experience severe bullying.
Pushy parents, as mentioned earlier, is another contributing factor to children’s mental dysfunctions. Some parents are deeply interested in their child’s success to the point that they stop caring about their cognitive abilities and mental health (Rabin, 2019). Soon, they push their kid to be good at everything, and if they are not good enough, they are punished to a ridiculous degree. Pushy parents tend to require their children to continually impress their relatives to the point that their self-worth is not only tied to their achievements but their parent’s approval.
Moreover, the habit of seeking approval from others would stay with such children, and they have a higher risk of developing unhealthy relationships with other people later in their life. Pushy parents have to remember that not every child can become an ace in spots, some children could fail, and that is entirely normal, it should not be shamed. Parents need to support their offspring in everything they do instead of demanding perfection. A child should be driven by passion and not by the ‘efforts’ of their strict parents.
To conclude, sport should be an essential part of a child’s development, but it should not be competitive. Sport provides a plethora of benefits for one’s health at any age, including the decrease of several risks related to obesity. Physical activities can be beneficial for forming friendships and learning to work in a society at a young age. However, simultaneously, an excessive amount of sport, if a person is not very good at it, can lead to several mental problems, including depression, a decrease in self-esteem and self-worth. Moreover, sport can be considered rather dangerous because of the number of injuries as well as fatalities. A reduction in self-esteem can also be linked to pushy parents who want their children to become extremely successful sportsmen. Sport is suitable for a child’s health, but it is dangerous to connect the achievements and failures to their perception of themselves.
Cowden, R. G., Meyer-Weitz, A. & Oppong Asante, K. (2016). Mental toughness in competitive tennis: Relationships with resilience and stress. Frontiers in Psychology, 7, 320. Web.
Fry, M. & Hogue, C. M. (2018). Psychological considerations for children and adolescents in sport and performance. Oxford University Press.
Rabin, R. C. (2019). Parents should limit sports participation for children, trainers say. The New York times.
Rodriguez-Ayllon, M., Cadenas-Sánchez, C., Estévez-López, F., Muñoz, N. E., Mora-Gonzalez, J., Migueles, J. H., … Esteban-Cornejo, I. (2019). Role of physical activity and sedentary behavior in the mental health of preschoolers, children and adolescents: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Sports Medicine, 49, 1383–1410.
Vertommen, T., Kampen, J., Schipper-van Veldhoven, N., Uzieblo, K. & Van Den Eede, F. (2018). Severe interpersonal violence against children in sport: Associated mental health problems and quality of life in adulthood. Child Abuse & Neglect, 76, 459-468.