Imagine you are 9 years old and like a lot of Canadians, you like hockey. Odds are you might have spent countless January evenings pretending to be Wayne Gretzky or Hayley Wickenheiser in the back alley with a stick that’s too big for you and your dad’s Tuesday night league jersey.
On the other end of the spectrum there are kids who have coaches dedicated to improving skating skills, go to conditioning camps, and play in summer leagues. Add competition and “fanatic” parents on top of that and what was once a fun time can become stressful. Ever hear of the saying “too much of a good thing”?
This can happen in any sport (soccer, baseball, etc.) and is being looked at as a reason why some kids are quitting sports.
In a previous post I wrote about how early specialization and focusing on a single sport from a young age is not the best idea; how specializing in single sport should usually wait until kids get older. Early specialization can take the fun out of sports and lead to burnout.
If we want kids to enjoy playing sports and be active on a regular basis, now and for life, the goal should be to make sports participation FUN and not a chore. Because let’s face it, sports are fun! They’re great for making friends, they have so many health benefits and can be enjoyed by people of all ages.
So what can parents do to keep sports fun and promote a lifetime of physical activity?
- Focus on intrinsic motivation. Support and encourage kids to do physical activities that give them an internal reward and that they find enjoyable.
- Show kids a variety of activities. Discourage early specialization and promote many different types of sports and games.
- Get involved – walk the talk. Parents should set a good example by enjoying their own active hobbies; whether that be playing a sport, active commuting, or going for long power-walks with the family dog.
Remember, kids that are active when they are young (and have positive experiences from it) tend to be active for life. Given all we know about the benefits of physical activity, set them up for fun and success by keeping it varied, fun, and interesting.
Statistics Canada: Sports Participation is Declining