Chippenham Hospital - August 26, 2019

Sports are good for kids: they help them thrive physically, socially and even intellectually. But they can also be stressful. Increasingly, children’s sports are hyper-competitive—and that can lead to negative rather than positive outcomes. Find out how and why you can help make your child’s sports activities fun instead of stressful.

Five benefits children get from sports

Everyone knows exercise is good for the body, but there are a lot more reasons why participating in sports benefits kids. Here are five:

  1. Healthy lifelong habits. Participating in sports lays the groundwork for a lifetime of including physical activity in a healthy, balanced lifestyle.
  2. Self-esteem boost. Sports give children the chance to set and achieve goals—and that experience can lead to goal-setting and achievement in other aspects of their lives as well.
  3. Teamwork experience. The ability to be a good team member is key to both personal and work success later in life. Sports also offer children the opportunity to bond with teammates in a way that may not be possible in school or other areas of their lives.
  4. Stress relief. Not only is exercise a natural stress reliever, but the bonds that children form in sports activities can provide a great support system for other stressful times.
  5. Fun! There’s no overestimating the value of healthy fun. Children often treasure their memories of sports experiences and teammates.

Five ways you can sport-support your child

You may be certain that you want your kids to experience the benefits of sports but uncertain of how to support them. You don’t want to be a helicopter parent, but you also don’t want to throw your child in too deep. Turns out there’s a sweet spot between holding your child’s hand on every sideline and being completely out of touch with their experiences. Read on for five tips to help you find the right balance.

  1. Show up. You don’t have to attend every practice or even every game, but when you can, try to focus on the game. Of course, you might have to check your phone occasionally, and small talk with other parents is part of being a team parent. But make it a goal to be a good observer and have something positive to talk to your child about after each event.
  2. Brush up. Take the time to learn just a little bit about each sport your child pursues. It helps show them the value you place on the experience—and it’ll give you more to talk about after games and practices.
  3. Keep it real. Your job is to provide emotional support and to cheer your child on. You can do this best by keeping the conversation lines open and encouraging your child to speak up with coaches and teammates if the situation calls for it. It doesn’t mean stepping in to negotiate any conflicts yourself.
  4. Frame your expectations. It’s perfectly reasonable to expect your child to show up and do their best at every team event. It’s not reasonable to expect them to be a superstar if that’s not their talent. You can help your child learn to handle disappointment by focusing on effort and improvement rather than scores and wins.
  5. Be a good sport yourself. One of the most important things adults can do is model good sportsmanship as spectators. That means showing support and team spirit but never going negative. It's never appropriate to yell at players, coaches, or officials.