The number of kids in Canada playing organized sports is on the decline. Experts say this is reason for concern and they blame the allure of technology for keeping kids on the couch.
But just what are kids who don't participate in sport missing out on? Why is it important in kids' lives?
Below are some thoughts from experts Carl James, director of the York Centre for Education and Community, Ted Temertzoglou, a Health and Physical Education Publisher at Thompson Educational Publishing and Sheilagh Croxon, an Olympic medal-winning coach and advocate for women in sport.
They shared their insights with TVO in a panel discussion called "The Value of the Game: What Kids Learn from Sport".
What Do Kids Get Out of Sport?
- Improved self-esteem;
- Improved confidence;
- Knowing that you can do things you thought you couldn’t;
- Healthier bodies and healthier minds;
- How to deal with competition and what healthy competition looks like.
- How to work in a group.
- How to get along with people you might not like.
- Leadership skills.
- Time management (e.g. planning homework around practice).
- Sharing and fair play.
- How to keep winning in perspective.
- How to deal with adversity.
- How to get over the hump when you’re down.
- Improved grades and a stronger commitment to school.
- While kids can still get most of the benefits of sports in other ways, experts warn kids still need to find a way to have a healthy, active lifestyle.
- Find out why your kid does not like sports, suggests James. Did they have a negative experience? You need to assess why before concluding your child doesn’t like sports.
How Can You Get Reluctant Kids Moving?
- There are many options for ways kids can move their bodies, the experts say.
- Suggest yoga, Pilates, geocaching, dancing.
- Focus on the positive by-products of sport when encouraging your kids to participate.
- Be active yourselves; be a role model for your kids in attitude and action.
- Kick the ball with your kids, play catch, go cycling.
Are There Any Downsides to Sports?
- Team selection/not being chosen can be upsetting for kids, Croxon says.
- Kids in individual sports can feel a lot of pressure when the spotlight is on them alone, says Temertzoglou.
- Kids not taught how to properly deal with competition can end up being overly aggressive in other areas of their lives, Temertzoglou says.
- Parents can put too much pressure on kids, with some pushing their child to make the big leagues.
How Can Parents Help Kids Avoid the Pitfalls?
- It’s important to teach kids that it’s not about winning; it’s about pushing yourself to do better. Parents should encourage kids to focus on the self-improvement and team goals, Croxon says.
- Make sure you are giving encouragement not putting on pressure. Croxon says parents needs to be unconditionally supportive, shouldn’t get too involved, and need to keep their own egos out of the mix.
- Take the lead from the child. Don’t push; let kids push for what they love.