The Team Spirit

When your kids turn six in the Bay Area, the chances are you will put them on a team. Soccer, baseball, gymnastics, martial arts… you-name-it team.  My friend’s daughter has recently started competitive gymnastics training, which means her (and her family) committing to practice for nine hours a week for the next ten years. Another friend, declined the same opportunity.  It would be too much after-school work for one little girl.  She will continue recreational gymnastics, though.  My son started talking about winning trophies in TKD tournaments. He is really motivated so we will let him go for it. Other parents drive their children to baseball practices regardless of their kids’ drive and potential, just because it is “good for them to try it out”

The whole commotion made me think about advantages and disadvantages of being on competitive teams since the young age.  This is what I’ve come up with.

Advantages of competing:

1. Children who like sports are often of competitive nature, even if they only try to outdo themselves and break their own records. (That’s the type of competitiveness I promote.) Competing is like testing oneself. They also give young athletes a great thrill and sense of fulfillment.

2. Competing in sports is a great introduction to competing in real life. A child learns to win AND lose. For an athlete, losing is motivational.

3. Training for a competition teaches a child to work towards a goal, which in turns teaches them the true value of various life skills. You can’t win unless you develop perseverance, self-discipline, focus, humility among others.

Disadvantages of competing:

1. Competing in sports shifts the focus from sports to competitions. Children become more “medal oriented” instead of simply enjoying the sport.

2. Intensive training carries a risk of burnout, injuries and additional stress, including the overbearing parents.

3. Failure in sport can lead to child’s lower confidence in life.

To conclude, I don’t think that there is a clear-cut answer to what’s better: recreational or competitive sports. But I do think that we should look at our children’s potential and interests before we project our dreams on our kids. They need time to dream their own dreams too.

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