By Jo Ellen Williams, Director of Student Life
Should I force my child to play on a sports team? This is a very good question that most parents ask when their children become old enough to join a team. We want our children to grow and develop, and to be healthy, happy and feel secure. Sometimes children are anxious about joining a team and sometimes they just don’t want to do it.
My oldest son showed great signs of anxiety when I told him I had signed him up for soccer at age five. I forced him to play, but the whole time I wondered, “Is this the correct choice?” Fortunately, he had a very good coach who found a niche for him right away and taught him how to play goalie. Immediately, it built his confidence and made him feel very successful regarding his first adventure into sports. Over the course of time, he developed in to a very good athlete and played college basketball.
Here are a few things I learned as a parent:
- Always research the club you are signing your child up for. Do they have a written philosophy? Have a league handbook? What seems to be most important to the league?
- Is there a line of communication between you, the coach, and the head of the league?
- Make sure that sports are balanced with other activities.
- Many life-long lessons can be learned in sports, including the value of hard work, time management, good sportsmanship, and more.
- Good coaches motivate and create good players.
- Teammates and coaches become extended family, offering an additional “safety net” for our children.
- Overall, playing sports develops character.
- Athletics can sometimes lead to college opportunities.
- Playing sports can produce lifelong friendships.
So, my answer to the question is this: In most circumstances, I would encourage parents to involve their children in sports. They must first do the proper research, and help the child feel as confident as possible about the decision. For some children, it may not be the right decision. And that is okay, but I would encourage giving it a try. If it works, great. If not, there are other activities to encourage, such as music, art, book clubs, community service, church groups, etc. Being part of any group or team is a healthy opportunity.