Sports should be fun

Published 10:26 am Tuesday, May 9, 2006

By Staff
Fun comes first. It would seem an easy enough little sentence to remember. Sure, we expect that playing sports will teach our children important, even difficult, lessons about winning, losing and trying our best. But, above all, playing sports should be fun. If well-meaning parents have a hard time keeping that in mind, is it any wonder kids become frustrated?
For a growing number of young athletes, sports have become anything but enjoyable. According to the National Alliance for Youth Sports, some 70 percent of children in leagues quit organized sports by age 13 and never return.
Considering that some 20 million kids sign up for youth soccer, baseball, football, hockey and other competitive sports each year, that's a huge measure of disappointment. What's even worse is those who miss out on the benefits kids can receive from playing sports like enhanced self-esteem, physical fitness, and an understanding of teamwork and fair play.
One of the biggest reasons kids quit may be because sports have become so competitive today. Kids, coaches and parents used to look at a game as a time to get together and meet new friends and families. Now, it has become a screaming, kicking intense scene at the fields, which, for a lot of children, can be very frustrating and confusing.
Another issue is the fact that parents sign their children up for sports because it's what they did growing up. Please remember, your children are not you. If they do not enjoy playing sports or whine before every game and practice, don't force them to play. It may hurt your feelings, but it's your child's enjoyment that you should think about.
To get your children to enjoy and appreciate sports, you must work with them and talk to them about the importance of living an active lifestyle.
This doesn't mean push your children to practice gymnastics all day to make the Olympic team, but you can at least get them away from the TV and go hiking or toss the softball.
It's also very important to be active yourself. If you enjoy regular exercise, it will keep you in shape, and your children will be much more likely to participate as well. Explain to them the benefits of staying fit.
Also, make sure to be you child's biggest fan. Cheer them on from the sidelines, support their goals and achievements and help out at team functions.
Remember, one of the main reasons children joined an organized league is to have fun and be with their friends. If you notice that your child is unhappy with their game of choice, find out what the main problem is and work on ways of fixing it.